DEA: Guatemala could become a "mini Colombia"

&to=' target=_blank>>Guatemala

"If they don't change things, they could have a mini-Colombia here," Michael O'Brien, DEA attache at the &to=' target=_blank>U.S. Embassy, told a small group of reporters. "We have seen that (drug gangs) want to influence the public and the government."

Last week, DEA agents in the United States detained Guatemala's anti-narcotics chief, Adan Castillo, and two of his aides on charges they were helping smuggle narcotics. Following Castillo's arrest, police here found five packets of cocaine and US$22,000 (Ђ18,800) in cash in his office.

O'Brien said that Castillo was "working with several Guatemalan drug cartels, but because it's an open case I can't say which."

Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlos Vielman acknowledged on Tuesday that the problem of drug-corruption is getting worse.

"Narcotics traffickers have infiltrated all the structures of the state," Vielman said. "We worry that they have links with the military, police, judges, prosecutors and other institutions."

Vielman said the DEA is helping the Guatemalan government overhaul its anti-drug police force.

He urged the Guatemalan legislature to pass laws that would give investigators greater powers to fight the cartels.

"We need an organized crime law that allows us to pay informants, have undercover agents and listen to telephone calls," he said. "Without that, we are not going to be able to capture any of the cartel bosses."

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