Monday, May 16, 2011

Zetas blamed for Guatemalan massacre

Guatemala has seen its share of mass killings during the country’s civil war that ended in 1996 yet one cannot help but shudder at the latest massacre that occurred over the weekend.

In an incident described by a Guatemalan police spokesman as “the worst massacre we have seen in modern times," at least twenty-seven people were killed on Saturday at a ranch in the northern part of the country. Forensic doctors identified fifteen of the victims and among those killed were three minors and two women. All of those killed in the gruesome incident were bound with rope before being decapitated by the cold-blooded assassins.

Guatemalan authorities have accused the Zetas drug gang from neighboring Mexico as being responsible for the massacre in the hamlet of Caserio La Bomba. “It’s been proven that the victims were farmers and laborers without any links to narcotrafficking or organized crime,” said Guatemalan interior minister Carlos Menocal. Menocal also believed that the killers were targeting Otto Salguero, the owner of the “Los Cocos” ranch, even though “there’s no concrete case against him.”

As part of the investigation into Saturday’s massacre, police are also examining if that incident has any link to the 2008 murder of Haroldo Leon, the brother of alleged Guatemalan drug trafficker Juan Jose "Juancho" Leon, allegedly by the Zetas.

The mass killing highlights the intrusion of Mexican drug gangs across the border into Guatemala. Despite a two-month "military state of siege" in one province last year it appears as if the gangs have a foothold areas of northern Guatemala:
According to the 2010 U.N. World Drug Report, the northern province of Peten has long been a strategic drug-trafficking zone with jungle landing strips used by several cartels. It has one of the highest murder rates in Guatemala, which is one of the most violent countries in the world. Both the Zetas and Mexico's Sinaloa cartel have interests in Peten and may be competing for territory, the report says.
A statement from the U.N’s High Commission on Human Rights in Guatemala condemned the massacre but also urged President Alvaro Colom to help provide greater protection for residents of communities near the Guatemala-Mexico border.

On a related note, a U.S. immigration judge last week ordered the deportation of Pedro Pimental Rios, an ex-member of an elite Guatemalan military force that participated in the infamous Dos Erres massacre nineteen years ago.

Image- AP via MSNBC (“Police agents look at a message written in blood at the site of a massacre at a local ranch in the hamlet Caserio La Bomba, in La Libertad, northern Guatemala, Sunday May 15, 2011.”)
Online Sources- MSNBC, Terra Colombia, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, El Universal, Reuters, El Diario de Yucatan, Europa Press

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