200 US Marines are patrolling Guatemala coast as part of region crackdown on drug trafficking

The Associated Press

GUATEMALA CITY - A team of 200 U.S. Marines has begun patrolling Guatemala's western coast this week in what a military spokesman says is an unprecedented operation to beat drug traffickers in the Central America region.

Marine Staff Sgt. Earnest Barnes says it is the first Marine deployment in the area to directly support anti-crime efforts.

Guatemalan authorities say they signed a treaty allowing the operation on July 16.

Less than a month later an Air Force C-5 cargo plane landed in Guatemala City loaded with the Marines and their four helicopters. The Marines' deployment is part of Operation Martillo, a broader effort to stop drug trafficking along the Central American coast.