The war on drugs just got a whole lot more warlike. Two hundred U.S. Marines have entered Guatemala, on a mission to chase local operatives of the murderous Zeta drug cartel.
The Marines are now encamped after having deployed to Guatemala earlier this month, and have just “kicked off” their share of Operation Martillo, or Hammer. That operation began earlier in January, and is much larger than just the Marine contingent and involves the Navy, Coast Guard, and federal agents working with the Guatemalans to block drug shipment routes.
It’s a big shift for U.S. forces in the region. For years, the Pentagon has sent troops to Guatemala, but these missions have been pretty limited to exercising “soft power” — training local soldiers, building roads and schools. Operation Martillo is something quite different.
The news comes as two U.S. agents wounded in an attack in Mexico last week were discovered to be likely working for the CIA. The attack appears to be a case of mistaken identity after the agents fled from a Federal Police checkpoint, thinking the plain-clothed Mexican cops were cartel members. Police, seeing the agents’ bulletproof SUV flee their checkpoint, presumably thought the same thing, followed them and shot up their car. The agents have now been discovered as likely working for the CIA, as one of the wounded agents’ false identity was linked to a post office box in Virginia previously tied to CIA rendition flights.