Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Coca not the cola

Mom, please don't share the following with Grandpa.

Up to now I have written a very sunshine and puppies perspective to my Peace Corps service in Guatemala. I'm not going to lie, i've omitted some interesting experiences because headquarters tells us to leave the "bad stuff" for personal journal writing and, more importantly, because I don't want to give anyone in my family unwarranted anxiety (I promise you all I am very safe). Since I wouldn't consider the following a "bad" experience but rather an "informative" and maybe even a "cultural" experience I'm going to share it with you.

While I was spending my Christmas with firecrackers, tamales and Roger Rafael a whole different story was unfolding in Chapeton. Chapeton is an Aldea approximately 9 KM from where I live. I want to preface this by saying Chapeton is a great little beach town with respectable inhabitants (two girls from my soccer team live there) it just happens to be in a very "opportunistic" location for narco trafficking. Yes I said it, narco trafficking.

Guatemala, unfortunately, has become a pit stop for drug traffic to the states (damn American druggies). I'm no expert but it seems perfectly logical. Guatemala is expansive with plenty of jungle for hidden airstrips and has a futile police force that can't secure a square block in the capital city much less the country's border circumference. All Guatemalan borders (especially in the Northern Peten region) are known to harbor drug traffickers. Although I've been told the majority of the drugs move through the eastern side of the country, there is also the occasional narco incident on the west side. Which brings me back to Christmas in Chapeton.

After the Navidad festivities simmered down I spent Saturday afternoon at the Tienda Coop. The town was completely dead- only bolos (drunks) were wandering the streets and they weren't buying anything but guaro so I had plenty of time to gossip with the girls. We first talked about the dance on the 24th and then about the beach festivities on the 25th. Eslin had gone to Las Lisas but she quickly changed the subject to Chapeton. "There were two drownings in Chapeton" she told me. It was a sad story, especially since it occurred on Christmas day. "Two friends were swimming in the ocean and one began to drown, the other went out to try to save him but they both ended up getting pulled under." The rip-tides here are deadly and although dozens are known to die each year in the ocean, it doesn't seem to reduce the number of people willing to risk their lives in the water.

At this point in the conversation a plane flew overhead and Selvan came out from his minibanco station at the store and shocked me with his big guns gossip, "Looks like the cops are still patrolling for coca." Naive as i am I asked, "What coca, like drugs coca?". "Yes, coca like cocaine. They caught three lanchas in Chapeton filled with cocaine on Friday, shit, you should have seen the number of helicopters flying around." What? Where was I when all this was going down? I was intrigued and needed to know more. "But how did the drugs get into the lanchas in the first place and where were they headed?" As if it happens daily Selvan explained, "The planes flew over the coast at Chapeton carrying the coca, they dropped the drugs into the ocean right off the shore and the lanchas went out to retrieve them. The cops caught them before they could carry the drugs into the mangroves and hide." "Ah, I see." Although I wanted to know more I stopped prying. I figured its probably better not to be the suspicious foreign white girl asking lots of questions.

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