The Armed Forces of Guatemala and Mexico are cooperating to stop drug trafficking through the border the two countries share. In recent weeks, the Guatemalan Army has deployed 250 troops along the Suchiate River, which marks the western border between Guatemala and Mexico. The troops are part of the Tecún Umán Task Force, whose mission it is to stop drug smuggling and other criminal enterprises, such as human trafficking, along the border. The border is a major drug trafficking route for transnational criminal organizations, particularly Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, which is led by fugitive drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The Guatemalan soldiers assigned to the task force have been trained in to detect and stop drug shipments. The troops have also received combat and reconnaissance training, according to Guatemalan military authorities. These troops are equipped with heat sensors and night vision goggles, which allow them to operate at night. They also have armored Jeep J8 vehicles, which were contributed by the United States government. The U.S. is cooperating with Guatemala and Mexico in the battle against transnational criminal organizations. Guatemala’s National Civil Police (PNC) in recent weeks assigned dozens of officers to the border region, in departments such as San Marcos, Petén, Huehuetenango and Quiché. Binational meeting Security deployment In recent weeks, Mexico sent more than 2,500 soldiers and Marines to the border region. For Mexican military forces, the joint operation is known as the “Southern Border Plan,” which is being coordinated by the Mexican Navy. The operation was launched during the first week of September 2013. Mexican security forces are also being strengthened along the country’s border with Belize. In addition to the soldiers and Marines, the Federal Police (PF) is sending an additional 100 agents to the border region. Guatemalan and Mexican security forces are working to stop drugs, weapons, and humans from being smuggled into Mexico. The Mexican Army has established a military camp on the Tapachula-Talismán highway, near six border towns which are adjacent to the Guatemalan border. With the support of military dogs trained to detect drugs, soldiers are inspecting vehicles which pass through the highway. If organized crime operatives slip past the border, Mexican security forces will enforce additional checkpoints in Chiapas, Tabasco, Quintana Roo and Campeche. Additional checkpoints will be conducted in Veracruz and Oaxaca. Drug trafficking region Working collaboratively to strengthen security at the border makes sense for Guatemalan and Mexican security forces, according to Carlos Mendoza, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). “The strategy to secure the border will inhibit the areas where transnational criminal organizations operate,” Mendoza said. “ It will certainly lead to a reduced flow of drugs, money, and weapons. Cartels will look for new routes.” “It’s a good partnership in terms of security,” the security analyst explained. “They are strengthening cooperation between both countries, as well as their cooperation with the U.S. in the fight against drug cartels.” Guatemalan and Mexican officials discussed security issues and other topics during the 11th Mexico-Guatemala Binational Commission meeting in Mexico City in May 2013. The two countries must cooperate to strengthen security in the border region, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Fernando Carrera Castro said during the closing ceremony of the binational meeting. Guatemala and Mexico cannot allow organized crime groups like Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel (CDG) and the Sinaloa Cartel to operate freely, Carrera Castro said. During the past 15 months, Guatemalan and Mexican security forces have captured several important organized crime operatives who operated transnationally: • In May 2013, Guatemala’s National Civil Police captured Samuel Escobar, 20, an alleged high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel operative. Police captured Escobar in the department of San Marcos, near the Pacific coast. He was carrying a gun, jewelry, and more than $128,000 in cash. Escobar was with a gang which was threatening to kill police officers unless they stopped looking for him, Guatemala Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla said. National Civil Police also captured Deisy Vallagran, 57, a suspected drug trafficker who was allegedly hiding firearms, drugs, and a money-counting machine in her home, and Juventino Encarnacion Garcia, 44, an alleged drug trafficker suspected of working with El Chapo. • In September 2012, Mexican Army soldiers captured Sergio Armando Barrera Salcedo, an alleged Sinaloa Cartel operative who is known as “El Checo.” He is suspected of receiving drugs that were smuggled through the Guatemala-Mexico border and transporting them throughout Mexico. • In July 2012, Guatemalan National Civil Police agents and Army soldiers captured 27 alleged Los Zetas operatives in the suburb of Quetzal, near Guatemala City. The suspects were all Mexican nationals. They were suspected of engaging in killings, extortion, kidnappings, arms smuggling, and drug trafficking. Improving security By Dialogo October 09, 2013 Important captures For years, Los Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel, and other organized crime groups have used the 1,000-kilometer long Guatamala-Mexico border for drug trafficking and other illicit enterprises. While some drugs are smuggled from Central America to Mexico and the United States in boats and planes, the vast majority of drugs – 76 percent – are trafficked through the Guatemala-Mexico border, according to security analysts.
August 15, 2003 Daniel Staesser Assistant Editor Regular News Foundation finds success with summer fellows program Foundation finds success with summer fellows program Assistant EditorSometimes a foundation gives us a feeling of security — that though the harsh winds of life may blow against us from all sides, we will somehow weather the storm, because we know we are being held fast. For some of Florida’s neediest, the poor, the elderly, children, and victims of domestic violence and discrimination, that foundation is being laid.In cooperation with Florida law schools, The Florida Bar Foundation has sponsored the 2003 Summer Fellowships Program at legal aid and legal services programs throughout Florida. With funding provided through the IOTA program and the Florida Lawyers Legal Insurance Corporation, the fellowships, granted to first- and second-year law students, has four main purposes:• Involve the fellowship recipients in high quality civil legal assistance to those in need.• Provide educational experience in representing those in need and in working with individual clients and client groups.• Increase student interest in and awareness of the legal problems of the needy and the challenges and satisfactions of representing them.• Promote pro bono representation of those in need.According to the Foundation’s Camille Stawicki, organizer of the summer fellowships, the program has seen considerable success.“We get the law students accustomed to what they would be doing [as legal aid lawyers],” Stawicki said. “For those fellows who will not become legal aid lawyers, this experience, hopefully, will encourage them to volunteer as pro bono attorneys.”Of the 146 applications received for the fellowships only 23 were offered, of which 21 were filled, including a Florida resident attending an out-of-state school. Sylvia Simmons, of Florida State University, is the recipient of the Terry Russell Fellowship funded by Florida’s legal service program’s Project Directors Association, and served at Florida Legal Services in Tallahassee; Luis Maldonado, of the University of Florida, served his fellowship at Withlacoochee Area Legal Services; and Laura Sterling, of Florida A&M, fellowed at the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association.A returning fellow, Simmons said she loves the structure of the program and what it allows her to be involved with.“You sit in a law library and read up on it, but you don’t really talk to the people whom the law affects,” Simmons said. “But this program gives you that opportunity.”Simmons said she spent time researching, volunteering, and on the “hotline” answering calls from victims of domestic violence and similar circumstances.“Sometimes they just want somebody to talk to; somebody who will listen,” Simmons said. “Sometimes the only reason a victim stays in those dire circumstances and puts up with the violence is because they need the money to raise their children.”With a passion for assisting victims of domestic violence, Simmons also said that the fellowships really come together at “an intersection of social work and the law.”“I’m really touched by the cases that involve child abuse,” she said. “It used to be more of a private issue, and now it’s coming more to the public’s attention.”Though growing up in a very supportive environment, Simmons said she had seen so much violence around her throughout her childhood.“I am very close with my family,” said Simmons. “I know how important that structure is, and when you have someone shake up that structure it is very detrimental to its foundation.”Maldonado agreed, having also grown up around similar societal issues. From LaBelle, Maldonado said, “It hits close to home. I essentially have been helped throughout my life, so I feel it is a responsibility to help.”Taking that responsibility very seriously, Maldonado assisted with community outreach education programs, wrote appellate briefs, interviewed clients, and served as an interpreter in court and administrative proceedings during his fellowship.“It was nice putting skills I learned in law school to actual use,” said Maldonado, who said he did everything from translating advertisements to facilitating health screenings.Maldonado said the fellowship was definitely a learning experience and that “working with legal services serves as a reality check – and our issues become menial when compared to worrying whether or not you are going to have a home.”“I’m not helping someone who hurt their back lifting a box win a $10-million suit; I’m helping someone stay in their apartment and have a roof over their head,” said Sterling, who already has a master’s degree in social work, but felt she could do much more as an attorney.Sterling said she tripped into the legal aid arena in college, when she took a class called “Death and Dying.” She volunteered in a nursing home, applying what she learned in class.“Learning and applying the law are two different things,” said Sterling, who praised the Foundation’s program, saying that it gave students a chance to see things first-hand and realize into what area of law they want to go.Students who are selected for fellowships must be in good standing with their law schools, and are selected on the basis of their experience working in low-income communities, academic achievement, writing skills, and previous contact with and long-term commitment to public service and pro bono work.First-year student recipients are allotted $4,000 and second-year students receive $5,000 for the 11-week fellowships. Whether students receive academic credit for the fellowship is up to their law schools and may affect the amount of the stipend. Each fellowship recipient must attend a two-day training seminar before they start work.Fellowship applications are available after November 1 at Florida law schools or from The Florida Bar Foundation’s Web site at www.flabarfndn.org. For more information about the summer fellows program contact Camille Stawicki at (407) 843-0045, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.