Guatemala, Intelligence and Security
Guatemala gained its independence from Spain in 1821. After colonial rule, the region was politically dominated by rival large-land owners. In the latter half of the twentieth century, the government suffered endemic turmoil. Various military coups devastated the national infrastructure, co-opting the nation's small intelligence and security community into political and secret police operations. A 36-year civil war further devastated Guatemala, leaving 100,000 people dead and some one million refugees displaced from their homes.
In 1996, the government issued a peace agreement, formally ending the conflict, but sporadic fighting remains a problem. In peacetime, Guatemala has begun the task of rebuilding its political infrastructure, including its intelligence and security services. New agencies seek to distance themselves from those that operated during the era of political upheaval, but lingering fears of rebel insurgency has prompted the continued use of political espionage against dissidents.
Guatemala's largest intelligence agency is under the direction of the military. The Military Intelligence Wing, D-2, conducts both domestic and foreign intelligence operations. Though D-2 conducts a variety of surveillance missions, a large focus of their operations is the identification and infiltration of paramilitary groups. D-2 also monitors and attempts to stem the trafficking of contraband weapons across national borders.
Guatemala's civilian intelligence community is administered by the Ministry of the Interior and the National Police. The Ministry of the Interior maintains a sizable investigations and security-intelligence force to combat organized crime, government corruption, and counterfeiting. The National Police are the nation's main law enforcement agency, and maintain their own, specialized intelligence and investigative units.
In recent years, Guatemala has become a major staging area for the trafficking of illegal drugs. The government has joined with others in the region, and the United Nations, to combat the problem, but with varying degrees of success. Government corruption also remain endemic in Guatemala, stifling attempts to rebuild the nation's economy.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. "Guatemala" CIA World Factbook < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/gt.html > (April 8, 2003).