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Viewing cable 08GUATEMALA1360, NARCOTRAFFICKERS INCREASINGLY INFILTRATE CIVAIR

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08GUATEMALA1360 2008-10-31 14:38 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET Embassy Guatemala
VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGT #1360/01 3051438
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 311438Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6365
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHDC
S E C R E T GUATEMALA 001360 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2018 
TAGS: SNAR EAIR ELAB ECON PGOV GT
SUBJECT: NARCOTRAFFICKERS INCREASINGLY INFILTRATE CIVAIR 
OPERATIONS 
 
REF: A. GUATEMALA 1231 
     B. GUATEMALA 1180 
 
Classified By: Ambassador McFarland for reasons 1.4(b,d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  In a meeting with Embassy officers, civil 
aviation authorities and union representatives expressed 
concern over the increased presence of narcotraffickers in 
civil aviation operations, particularly in Puerto Barrios in 
the eastern part of the country (ref A).  They highlighted 
the harmful impact of narcotrafficking on tourism, commerce, 
and economic development, and requested support to help 
resolve the growing problem.  End Summary. 
 
2. (C) Embassy officers met with Civil Aviation Director Juan 
Jose Carlos and representatives of the Civil Aviation 
Workers' Union on October 21 to discuss their concern over 
increasing infiltration by narcotraffickers in civil aviation 
operations, particularly in Puerto Barrios, Izabal.  Carlos 
noted that numerous aircraft were arriving from the south and 
landing on the abandoned, uncontrolled landing strips in 
Puerto Barrios, including a remote corner of a landing strip 
controlled by a known narcotrafficker. 
 
3. (C) Carlos described the problem as "very serious," and 
stressed the need for international collaboration, including 
Embassy support, to resolve the problem, which the GOG has 
not been able to resolve on its own.  He emphasized that the 
infiltration of narcotraffickers in the civil aviation 
infrastructure affects not only tourism, but export of goods 
as well as the country's overall economic development. 
 
4. (S) Carlos remarked that he and the Civil Aviation 
Workers' Union have been working closely together on this 
issue as well as other issues of mutual concern, and 
underscored the importance of safeguarding the physical 
security of union members.  Jose Arturo Ruiz Trhamppe, 
coordinator of the union, indicated that the union has 533 
members and is represented in every airport in the country. 
He shared Carlos' concern, noting that there have been 
several threats against union members in Puerto Barrios, and 
that civil aviation officials allegedly involved in 
narcotrafficking activities may have been involved in the 
murder of Amilcar Mendez' son Pepe, who worked at the control 
tower at Guatemala City's La Aurora airport.  (Note: 
Investigators of the UN-led International Commission Against 
Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) have concluded that Pepe Mendez 
was involved in arranging landing permission for 
narcotrafficking flights at La Aurora.  He mistakenly denied 
clearance to a plane carrying three tons of cocaine.  It 
circled the airport five times before crashing; traffickers 
killed Pepe in response.  End Note.) 
 
5. (C) Carlos said he had discussed the narcotrafficking 
problem with former Minister of Government Vinicio Gomez and 
is currently coordinating with the Office of the Presidency. 
An investigator was previously assigned by the Ministry of 
Government to examine the influence of narcotraffickers at 
the airport but was asked to leave due to poor performance. 
A new investigator has been assigned by the Office of the 
Presidency, whom Carlos described as "very professional."  A 
Public Ministry investigator is also working on the case. 
Carlos noted that the airport security team planned to meet 
with CICIG Commissioner Castresana later that day. 
 
6. (C) General Jorge Perusina, National Manager of Airport 
Security, affirmed that the Public Ministry as well as CICIG 
Commissioner Carlos Castresana were aware of the situation 
following the July 2008 arrest of Luis Fernando Archila Lima, 
Chief of Security of the General Directorate of Civil 
Chief of Security of the General Directorate of Civil 
Aviation (DGAC) in Puerto Barrios, for drug possession. 
According to press accounts, Archila Lima was arrested soon 
after authorities raided an airport control tower where two 
ounces of heroin were found in his bed.  Perusina claimed 
that Archila Lima was assigned to revamp security at the 
Puerto Barrios airport in May 2008 and implied that he was 
set up.  The drugs in the tower were found a few weeks after 
Archila Lima had submitted a confidential report to him about 
suspected narcotrafficking infiltration at the airport. 
 
7. (C) Comment:  The seemingly close working relationship 
between civil aviation management and the workers' union is a 
rare and positive example in a country where labor unions 
have faced numerous challenges in exercising their freedom of 
association.  It recognizes that the increasingly complex and 
systemic problem of narcotrafficking threatens management and 
workers alike and requires coordinated effort.  The Embassy 
continues to support improved airport security through the 
USG-GOG Airport Security Working Group (ref B) that brings 
together USG and GOG security, law enforcement, customs, and 
immigration officials to address critical issues on a 
bi-weekly basis. 
McFarland