The war on drugs just got a whole lot more warlike. Two hundred U.S. Marines have entered Guatemala, on a mission to chase local operatives of the murderous Zeta drug cartel.
The Marines are now encamped after having deployed to Guatemala earlier this month, and have just “kicked off” their share of Operation Martillo, or Hammer. That operation began earlier in January, and is much larger than just the Marine contingent and involves the Navy, Coast Guard, and federal agents working with the Guatemalans to block drug shipment routes.
It’s a big shift for U.S. forces in the region. For years, the Pentagon has sent troops to Guatemala, but these missions have been pretty limited to exercising “soft power” — training local soldiers, building roads and schools. Operation Martillo is something quite different.
Interesting. I recall that in the early 1980s, US support for El Salvador, at a much more… discrete… level than this was a cause for much wailing and gnashing of teeth. A few garments were rendered as well. I’m somewhat amazed that this particular deployment is so quiet.
URR will tell you that the Marines have a long, long history of operations in South and Central America. Heck, it’s where they first developed their doctrine of close air support.
The US tries to tread lightly in South America. While any number of governments and large swaths of the population are grateful for US support, there are also any number of people ready to decry Yankee imperialism and American neo-colonialism. Much of South America is something of a basket case, but aside from drug traffic, its problems also tend to be regional, confined to the local arena, and not as immediate a threat to US interests as other international areas such as the Middle East or the Pacific Rim.
It will be interesting to see what comes next here. Will the Zetas lay low, knowing that the Marines can only deploy for a relatively short time, or will they opt for some level of asymetric resistance?