16 Jan 2012

President enlists army's help to tackle drug cartels

9:12 pm on 16 January 2012

One day after his inauguration, the president of Guatemala has ordered the army to join the fight against drug cartels.

Officials say police in some areas have been infiltrated by drug gangs, making it necessary to bring in the central American country's army.

Guatemala is following the example of Mexico and Honduras, where the military is also tackling the drug gangs, the BBC reports.

Otto Perez Molina, the first military figure to lead Guatemala since the return to democracy in 1986, has promised tough action against violent crime and drug trafficking.

During his campaign for the presidency, he promised voters to restore security with an "iron fist".

Under the new orders issued by Mr Perez Molina on Sunday, the army will join in the fight against organised crime across the country.

In a speech to the armed forces, he told the military "to co-ordinate and co-operate with the other security forces to neutralise organised crime through ground, air and maritime control."

Mr Perez Molina said he would provide the military with planes, speedboats and ground vehicles to help battle organised crime.

Guatemala is a major transit point for cocaine smuggled from Colombia through Guatemala to Mexico and on to the United States.