The Kaibiles, Guatemala’s special operations forces, established in 1974, are renowned for their specialized training in survival and combat in difficult terrains, such as jungles and mountains. Their infamous reputation for toughness and effectiveness traces back to their anti-guerrilla origins, but they are currently focused on conducting high-risk missions like anti-terrorism, anti-narcotics operations, and hostage rescue operations. They have, however, been criticized for human rights violations during Guatemala’s 36-year-long civil war and have been linked to criminal activities in recent years.
- The Kaibiles were established in 1974 as a commando-style training force, primarily to confront the deactivated Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG). Their initial mission was anti-guerrilla and counter-insurgency, which has shifted to high-risk operations like anti-terrorism and anti-narcotics operations.
- The Kaibiles have been trained by various countries, including the U.S. They receive comprehensive training in guerrilla warfare, counter-guerrilla tactics, map interpretation, psychological conditioning, and survival skills among other areas.
- Reports indicate that former Kaibiles have been recruited by criminal groups and drug trafficking organizations in Central America due to their military expertise. Some ex-Kaibiles have also been linked with the mercenary group Los Zetas.
- The Kaibiles have a strong international footprint. They trained with U.S. Green Berets from 2007 to 2010, focusing on counter-terrorism, small unit combat, and counter-narcotics. They also work with other international special forces groups, including Mexican commandos.
- The Kaibiles remain an active part of peace operations, as well as in conducting operations in support of civilian security forces in Guatemala. They are currently deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission.