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Two Cartels Become One

Authorities fear that a major Guatemalan gang is linking up with Mexico's Zetas cartel to dominate trafficking routes through Central America.


Maras members are often heavily-tattooed.
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By Fionna Agomuoh


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Guatemala's Mara Salvatrucha street gang is reportedly merging with Mexico's paramilitary Zetas cartel to dominate drug trafficking in Central America. Leaders of the two infamous organizations have allegedly held talks in prison about how to join forces and control trafficking routes between South America and the US; authorities say they've recorded these discussions. The Zetas have already encroached into the Northern Guatemalan countryside by collaborating with local drug kingpins, and reports say they've begun training the Maras in paramilitary techniques, as well as providing equipment. A small group of Maras are already believed to have been trained by Zetas at a camp in Mexico, and Zetas members have been heard talking about recruiting 5,000 more Maras. Meanwhile the Maras have apparently provided the Zetas with intelligence and committed crimes to divert law enforcement resources. Eduardo Velasco, head of an Interior Ministry task force in Guatemala, has seen increasing levels of organization and violence among the Maras. "As a result of this union with the Zetas, the Mara Salvatrucha have more ability to organize, strategize and maneuver," he says. "The Mara Salvatrucha want to build up their inventory of long-range weapons, grenades and drugs for their own use and for sale... they know the economic benefit is great for them and that the Zetas, as an outside group, need the Maras' network in order to grow inside Guatemala."

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