(AP/U.S. Marine Corps)
Earlier this week, 200 U.S. Marines were deployed to the western coast of Guatemala in an attempt to monitor and prevent Central American drug trafficking. The U.S. military refers to this effort as Operation Martillo, which was put in place this year in response to the trafficking of copious amounts of cocaine and other drugs through Central America. Operation Martillo involves troops from countries across Central America, along with France and Spain. The U.S. military has not given Guatemala assistance of this magnitude since 1978. Beginning in the 1950’s, the U.S. intervened in Guatemala to help with insurgency efforts. The civil war in Guatemala in the following decades led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.
With permission from the Guatemalan government via a treaty, the U.S. military has once again entered Guatemala, and has now started patrolling coastal waters in search of drug-smuggling submarines, which official says can carry up to eleven tons of drugs up to 5,000 miles. The marines are on patrol duty, and have been ordered to notify the Guatemalan navy upon discovering suspected boats. Through the use of UH-1 “Huey” Helicopters, the Marines have targeted fast powerboats and the ‘narco-submarines’ of Mexico’s Zeta cartel.
According to recent State Department reports, Guatemala’s institutional corruption has resulted in mass drug trafficking through its western border. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina stated that he would even consider legalizing drugs in Central America, since the war on drugs has not diminished drug trafficking in the area. President Obama has responded in a significant way by sending U.S. military personnel directly to one of the primary sources of illegal drug trafficking in Central America.
I like President Obama’s aggression in this matter. I do not want to see the U.S. involved in another war, but this operation has the potential to prevent tons of cocaine from entering Guatemala, and can thus prevent drugs from entering the U.S. According to the DEA, eighty percent of the cocaine that ends up in the United States comes from Central America.
The U.S. involvement in Operation Martillo mostly requires surveillance, and has potential to deter the Mexican Zeta Cartel from taking advantage of Guatemala’s weak borders. I understand that military intervention is unpredictable to an extent, and the potential of escalation to more serious warfare always exists, especially considering the history of the U.S. military in Guatemala. At the same time, we are now in 2012. This operation is capable of providing valuable information regarding Mexican drug cartels and Central American drug trafficking, without the threat of major combat.
All in all, I feel that if direct military intervention is the solution, or even stands as a potential solution to the major drug problem in the U.S., then we are taking a step in the right direction with Operation Martillo.
I therefore ask, do you think this intervention is worth the possible risk of U.S. lives or the risk of escalation of violence in Guatemala? Should the United States bother sending troops into this war-zone, or should we stop policing the world and simply address the problem at the Mexican border? Lastly, should this operation fail, perhaps resulting in the deaths of many innocent Guatemalans, should the U.S. and the other countries involved be liable to international legal issues?