Here is an excerpt from this article in the Latin American Herald Tribune:
"People purporting to speak for Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel have threatened to attack civilians in the northern Guatemalan province of Alta Verapaz if Guatemala’s government continues the state of siege it imposed on the region. Reporters for radio stations in Alta Verapaz said Tuesday they have received text messages warning of possible assaults on shopping malls or other public places unless Guatemalan security forces cease counternarcotics operations in the region... President Alvaro Colom’s administration imposed the 30-day state of siege Dec. 19 with the announced aim of expelling Los Zetas from the northern province. The cartel is using Alta Verapaz as a transit corridor and staging area for South American cocaine coming up through Central America, according to authorities... Eighteen suspected Zetas have been taken into custody since the state of siege was declared." Link to Full Article
Analysis: This is yet another example that supports my argument that Mexican DTOs are increasingly turning to terrorist tactics, and that considering them to be mere organized crime groups is to underestimate their capabilities - and their motives.
Los Zetas have a pretty good thing going in northern Guatemala. If you think corruption and police incompetence is rampant in Mexico, you should see the situation in its neighbor to the south. Los Zetas have been able to train, smuggle, and operate in general without any impediments there, so it's obviously in their best interest to maintain control over government forces and the people in Alta Verapaz.
For sure, the 30-day state of siege the Guatemalan government has implemented there isn't ideal, but it can't be more than a minor annoyance for Los Zetas. Even Guatemalan President Colom has come out and said he doesn't have enough soldiers and police to deploy to the area to really get the job done, although every day his government is singing about the successes they're having there. I'm always concerned about any sort of "state of siege" in a Latin American country. It essentially means martial law, and pretty much always leads to a rash of human rights abuses.
Moving on to the more disturbing details, what would Los Zetas have to gain by threatening innocent civilians with death, and spreading fear among the populace? The same thing that terrorists have to gain by doing the same thing in other parts of the world: pressure on the government to bend to the Zetas' will. Guatemalans don't want to die, and certainly not at the hands of some brutal Mexican DTO. If the Guatemalan government can't demonstrate to the people that it can take care of business in Alta Verapaz cleanly and quickly, then things are going to get ugly, and fast.
It doesn't help that we're talking about Los Zetas here. Sure, they're not the original group that deserted from GAFES and has all the high-speed low-drag special forces skills they learned on active duty. But much of that training has been passed on to current members, and they're still one of the better-armed, better-trained, and better-funded DTOs in Mexico. They're also easily one of the most violent - neck and neck with La Familia for that title, in my opinion - and rarely hesitate to demonstrate their violent talents.
Honestly, I admire the Guatemalan government for stepping up and doing what they feel they need to do to protect their people, despite knowing they'll get criticized for and likely have some human rights problems down the road - because you know the 30 days is going to get extended at least once. But I fear that the Guatemalan soldiers and police in Alta Verapaz are showing up with knives to a gunfight, and I'm not looking forward to seeing the likely grisly results of their confrontations with Los Zetas over the next few weeks.