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Technical Strengthening: UNODC enhances the capacity of the Ministry of Defense and Customs professionals in the identification, control, and handling of substances and chemical precursors

Guatemala, August 14, 2023. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), through the Regional Program for the Safe Management and Disposal of Seized Drugs and Chemical Precursors (STAND), conducted specialized introductory training on chemical substances used in the production of illicit drugs, proper handling of hazardous substances, and chemical risk management for 35 Intelligence Specialists from the Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) and 5 technicians and professionals from the Tax Superintendency (SAT) Customs.

The trafficking of illicit substances contributes to the growth of transnational organized crime groups, posing a latent threat to the security and stability of states. Due to Guatemala's geostrategic location, it becomes a key point of passage for drug trafficking from South America to North America or other destinations. Additionally, due to its proximity to North America, it has also become a strategic point for production. As a result, the country faces constant pressure from organized crime groups seeking to use this territory as a transportation route and for the production of coca bushes and the processing of their alkaloids.

The Guatemalan army plays a crucial role in the protection and security of the country in the context of the fight against drug trafficking. It has responsibilities in detecting, intercepting, and combating activities related to illicit drug trafficking to protect the country's sovereignty. According to the 2022-2023 annual report of the Ministry of National Defense, the army participated in 20 operations to disable clandestine landing strips used for illicit activities. During this period, they managed to locate and secure 9 aircraft involved in illegal activities. They also carried out operations that resulted in the seizure of cocaine and the eradication of a total of 4,371,437 coca bushes. The army also participated in the eradication of 3,425,537 marijuana plants, 3,925,380 poppy plants, and the destruction of 6 narco laboratories. On the other hand, SAT officials are responsible for acting against fraud and customs smuggling at airport, port, and border checkpoints to prevent the illicit entry of substances and chemical precursors.

Through this training, the STAND Regional Program has provided the 40 officials with a solid foundation in the processes of production of natural and synthetic drugs, as well as the associated risks in handling substances and chemical precursors used in the illicit drug production. This reinforces participants' ability to effectively identify, prevent, combat, and handle such substances. It also allowed for the development of knowledge about biosafety in operational intervention for drug production facilities, illicit plantations, and inspections at border, airport, and maritime checkpoints.

These actions were carried out by the STAND Regional Program, which is funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the United States Government.