The recent arrest of “The Monkey”, organized crime leader Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, marked a major breakthrough in the Mexican drug war. Mexican officials are optimistic that his arrest will destroy one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels, La Familia Michoacana.
Further south in Guatemala, drug lords and cartels are wreaking havoc, specifically in the Peten region. The Peten is a biologically-rich forest area that takes up the northern part of the country. It contains a wide variety of plant and animal species, some endangered, as well as several ancient Mayan ruins. It is also holds the largest tropical forest in North and South America.
Violence in this area has become more and more extreme over the years, with a murder rate twice the national average, and much higher than in Mexico.
On May 17, a massacre occurred on one of the four cattle ranches owned by Otto Salguero. Authorities are investigating his possible linkage to a drug cartel.
Increasingly, Peten lands are being cleared for cattle farms. Not only does this impact the ecological stability of the region, but it is also impoverishing a majority of the population. Small-scale farmers are being pressured to sell their lands to wealthy cattle ranchers. The animals then quickly decimate the once-fertile lands, requiring more land acquisition.
A priest from Flores, the capital of Peten says that 80% of the population lives off of subsistence agriculture. Income disparity is extreme, and only increases, as these wealthy cattle ranchers (seemingly financed by the drug trade) clear more land.
The meat and drug industries are deeply intertwined in Peten, and are contributing to much suffering and climate impact in the region.
Image courtesy of srmurphy