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Re: [latam] [CT] How Guatemala's fragile democracy nearly went `narco'

Released on 2012-03-08 06:00 GMT

Email-ID 896885
Date 2010-07-20 23:17:51
These types of exercises are very common and last only a short time.
There is no residual troop presence.

There may be some private security guys running around, but no USMC,
especially with the USG restrictions on doing business with the
Guatemalans. We are not even allowed to sell them guns. Providing US
Marines to protect a Canadian company when we are already stretched thin
for ground troops is a non-starter.

From: [] On Behalf
Of Colby Martin
Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 4:01 PM
Subject: Re: [CT] How Guatemala's fragile democracy nearly went `narco'

I was in Nebaj during this time and although you can say some of it was
well deserved paranoia on the side of the Guatemalans, having a 1000 US
marines in San Marcos while there were riots and gun fights over the
Marlin mine was reason for consternation. The projects had been going on
since 1995 but the marines came with support troops and no one believed
they were there just to build schools and take care of patients. I do not
believe they were there only for humanitarian projects, especially after
sitting in on meetings of the people's movement against the Marlin mine.
Goldcorp is a Canadian company but as the article below states the
protection of the mine was secondary, and achieved by just being a
presence in the area. More importantly it gives the locals a sense that
US marines are benign and there to help. Basic counterinsurgency
tactics. To add to the general fear of the population, General Otto Perez
Molina gave a campaign speech in Nebaj (where he was commander during many
of the massacres of Ixil Mayans) where he bussed in hundreds of supporters
to hear him speak and there were snipers on the roof of the police
building across from the town square where he was speaking and security
forces everywhere in the town. It is accepted as fact in this area that
US forces or proxies are active in the area, and I have met more than a
few dudes in the mountain(ish) passes of Northwestern Guatemala who I
would bet my last dollar were not your average hiker.

US Deploys Troops Across Latin America In 'Goodwill' Gesture
by Patrick on Sat 03 Feb 2007 04:58 PM GMT | Permanent Link | Cosmos
1,000 US marines are coming to Guatemala to carry out humanitarian work in
San Marcos. The announcement received a bit of coverage in the press back
in November when Congress approved the move, but little now with the
programmed deployment starting in February [there's now been an article in
Prensa Libre 13-02-2007]. The US Ambassador James Derham described the
reason for the initiative in a statement as:

"This humanitarian exercise provides the United States the opportunity to
deploy and train Military Reserve and National Guard troops."

The Frente Nacional de Lucha called the arrival of US troops in Guatemala
a threat to peace. They quoted Sandino Asturias, Centro de Estudios de
Guatemala (CEG) who disputed how 'humanitarian' the intentions are:

"Para nadie es un secreto el interes geopolitico de los Estados Unidos en
la region y en particular en Guatemala. Aqui lo grave es que en esencia se
trata del uso del territorio guatemalteco para entrenar tropas militares
extranjeras. Eso es una flagrante violacion a la soberania nacional. El
hecho que lo disfracen de obras sociales y de infraestructura tiene aun
otro objetivo perverso: el acostumbrar a la poblacion a la presencia de
las tropas norteamericanas y que de alguna forma esta sea aceptable por el
publico en general."

Whatever the truth it's not hard to be cynical when this same programme of
'Nuevos Horizontes' is repeated all across the region each year since
1995: Dominican Republic, Peru, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, etc. Given
the timing- just in the run up to the elections, let's hope there's not a
repeat of interference the US demonstrated in Nicaragua (according to the
OAS) last year.


Nuevos Horizontes/ New Horizons is an engineer humanitarian civic
assistance exercise designed to give training to U.S. military units in
civilian construction or medical care services. Participating U.S. troops
build basic infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools, wells, etc.) and
provide medical, dental and veterinary services. Information from a
'Civilian's guide to U.S. defence and security assistance to Latin

>From Guatemala to Colombia: The Regional Integration of Gold and Bullets
is an article in ZNET by Sandra Cuffe that analyzes the role of
militarization as a part of the control of territory, natural resources
and people, and raises doubts about the so-called war on drug trafficking
in mining districts. A comparison is drawn between Plan Colombia and the
current situation in the gold mining region of San Marcos, Guatemala.

More on US interference in the Nicaraguan election from Quest for Peace.

It's also worth noting the irony that these humanitarian military
manoeuvres are taking place while a US court is showing great 'humanity'
jailing, on counts of trespass, peaceful protestors against WHINSEC
(previously known as the School of the Americas) blamed for military-led
human rights abuses across Latin America. Many graduates of the school
trained in the US were from the Guatemalan military and are amongst those
cited by various reports and legal actions for their responsibility in
gross human rights violations.

Marines Provide Guatemala Mission Support for Continuing Promise 2008

scott stewart wrote:

There are already US marines on the ground there protecting the Montana

Say what?

From: [] On Behalf
Of Colby Martin
Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 9:26 AM
Subject: Re: [CT] How Guatemala's fragile democracy nearly went `narco'

This ties into what we were talking about with Colom. Everyone blames the
wife for drug connections but there is no difference. One theory about
the office being tapped was that it wasn't by drug traffickers but by us.
I am trying to get everyone to talk to me about this but there is so much
fear there now. I really think we should be looking into whether Otto
Perez Molina is the US backed choice for president there and although he
has connections to the drug trade (who doesn't) he would be the candidate
to get into line with Calderon and the drug war in return for
financial/military support. There are already US marines on the ground
there protecting the Montana mines.

Alex Posey wrote:

How Guatemala's fragile democracy nearly went `narco'

Earlier this year, Guatemala nearly came under mobsters' control -- but an
outspoken former Spanish judge yanked the nation from the precipice.

McClatchy News Service

GUATEMALA CITY -- For a 17-day period that ended last month, Guatemala
seemed to be falling under the direct control of suspected mobsters. A
lawyer leading a posse of unsavory characters became the attorney general
and started dismantling the state's legal apparatus.

Central America's most populous country teetered on the edge of ``going

Although the appointment of Conrado Reyes as attorney general has now been
annulled and Guatemala's fragile democracy survived the ordeal, it's still
on a tightrope, advocates for democracy and human rights say.

A rugged coffee-growing nation of 13.5 million people, 40 percent of them
disenfranchised Mayan Indians, Guatemala has largely been off the world's
radar screen. But as U.S. anti-narcotics aid poured into Mexico and
Colombia, bad guys flooded the region in between.

Guatemala became a prime destination. While institutions of state appear
to function, corruption is rampant, and narcotics are pervasive. Some 275
to 385 tons of South American cocaine transits Guatemala each year, almost
enough to satisfy all U.S. demand, according to a March estimate by the
State Department.

Syndicates from neighboring Mexico brought violence to the steps of power.
Cartel enforcers demanding an end to a crackdown on organized crime dumped
four decapitated human heads on the steps of Congress and other downtown
Guatemala City sites on June 10.

Drug gangs operate largely unhindered. As many as seven of Guatemala's 22
provinces may not be under government control, making it ``one of the
world's most dangerous countries,'' according to a report June 22 by the
International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based organization.

Impunity is the rule. A weak judicial system keeps most of Guatemala's
corrupt politicians, hired assassins, arms traffickers and drug dealers
out of prison. It got so bad that the United Nations set up a special
commission in 2006 to help Guatemala dismantle its vast clandestine
networks of organized crime, and by doing so, gave Guatemalans hope for

It remains a distant goal. Even though President Alvaro Colom's
administration has sacked more than 2,000 police officers from the
national force, corruption corrodes the pillars of state. The last two
national police chiefs are in jail on narcotics charges. Two former
interior ministers are fugitives.

Leading the U.N.'s International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala
was Carlos Castresana, a hard-charging and outspoken former Spanish judge.
At high personal cost, he yanked Guatemala back from the precipice last
month in an extraordinary chain of events.

A starting point for the drama occurred at noon May 25 when Colom
administered the oath of office as attorney general to Reyes, a lawyer. At
the time, few suspected that Reyes might be fronting for criminal
interests. After all, he'd come out on top in a selection process of 29
candidates led by the deans of the nation's nine law schools, the chief of
its Supreme Court and two other top legal officials.

Scratch a little further, though, and there's more evidence of Guatemala's
pervasive corruption. Legal reforms earlier this decade gave the deans of
law schools an outsized role in selecting judges, magistrates and the
attorney general, so the academic posts go to those who are backed by deep
pockets and sometimes have shady backgrounds.


At the only national university, San Carlos, lobbying for the post of dean
of the law school is intense, said Eduardo Stein, a former Guatemalan vice
president who coordinates a truth commission that's looking into Honduras'
2009 removal of its president. ``They spend buckets of money in parties,
in gifts and in T-shirts. It's like a political campaign,'' Stein said.

When the selection committee met to mull over the six finalists for
attorney general, it gathered for only 15 minutes, a sign of an
under-the-table agreement.

Still, no one thought that Reyes would be so blatant as to take a
suspected mobster to his swearing-in. To the surprise of attendees,
standing nearby was Juan Roberto Garrido Perez, a former army captain
whose U.S. visa had been revoked because of suspicions of links to
narcotics trafficking. Garrido's shady connections are said to go beyond
drugs. Castresana later would accuse Garrido of links to alien smuggling,
the murder of a human rights activist's son and a 2006 heist of $9 million
at the Guatemala City airport, where Garrido was then the security chief.
During the heist, security cameras went on the blink.

Once sworn in as attorney general, Reyes seized personal control of
criminal investigations and the most sensitive bureau of the Public
Ministry, the Special Methods Unit, which handles wiretaps of major drug
traffickers, corrupt army officers, tycoons and politicians.


Within days of Reyes' takeover, more than a dozen seasoned prosecutors
who'd been handling sensitive cases involving political murders,
corruption and drug trafficking were swept out of their jobs, imperiling
cases such as a pending trial of former President Alfonso Portillo
(2000-04) on charges of embezzling $15.7 million.

Asked why he sacked the prosecutors, Reyes told reporters: ``They weren't
doing anything.''

With key prosecutors gone, and suspected mafiosos calling the shots,
however, Castresana saw his work coming undone.

In desperation, he resigned June 7, issuing a broadside against Reyes:
``He is not the prosecutor that Guatemala deserves. He has ties with
illicit organizations. His election was arranged by law firms that defend
drug traffickers.''

Foreign governments leaned heavily on Guatemala, and its Constitutional
Court felt compelled to act. On June 11, it annulled Reyes' selection as
attorney general. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named a renowned
Costa Rican corruption buster, Francisco Dall'Anese, to replace Castresana
as the head of the U.N.-backed impunity commission, whose mandate expires
next year.

``Guatemala is at an inflection point,'' said Helen Mack, the head of the
Myrna Mack Foundation, named for her anthropologist sister, who was slain
by an army death squad in 1990. Unless a variety of social forces act
urgently to protect the rule of law, she said, ``we will lose the state.''

Read more:


Alex Posey

Tactical Analyst