May 27, 2018 / 5:23 PM / 3 months ago

Guatemala raids first coca field as drug traffickers expand

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemalan anti-narcotics police have seized the first coca field and cocaine lab in the country’s history, officials said on Sunday, adding to a string of discoveries showing traffickers have expanded production into Central America.

The 1-hectare (2.5-acre) field was found Saturday in the mountainous city of Coban, north of the country’s capital, the National Police said in a statement, adding the find was unprecedented.

The value of the seizure was still being calculated, said Pablo Castillo, a police spokesman.

Central America has long served as a transit point for cocaine headed to the United States from South America, where most of the coca plant used to make the drug is grown.

But drug traffickers have innovated with coca varieties in Central America’s climate in a bid to cut costs of illegal shipments to the United States, with fields discovered in Honduras and Mexico in recent years.

In March, the United Nations (UN) warned about the increase in the cultivation of coca leaves and assured that “hundreds of hectares of forest have been lost in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua due to the trafficking of cocaine.”

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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