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2010-12-22

Guatemala: Counter-narcotics raids net weapons, cash, plane

Police stand guard over suspected members of Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel who were apprehended during the government’s siege of the department of Alta Verapaz on Dec. 20. (Stringer/Reuters)

Police stand guard over suspected members of Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel who were apprehended during the government’s siege of the department of Alta Verapaz on Dec. 20. (Stringer/Reuters)

By Olga Vélez and Ezra Fieser for Infosurhoy.com —22/12/2010

GUATEMALA CITY – Law enforcement agents confiscated a small jet, 150 assault rifles and about US$63,000 in cash during a series of counter-narcotics operations in the northern department of Alta Verapaz on Dec. 21, Donald González, a police spokesman, said.

Agents also apprehended 10 suspected members of the Los Zetas, a Mexico-based drug cartel, since President Álvaro Colom ordered a 30-day state of siege in Alta Verapaz on Dec. 18 in an attempt to stop Los Zetas from terrorizing the population.

Police discovered $300,000 quetzales (US$37,735) in cash inside a small plane impounded at the airport in Cobán, and an additional $200,000 quetzales ($25,157) during a search at a residence, González said.

Interior Minister Carlos Menocal said the government’s goal in declaring the siege is “to restore governability, attack and dismantle the organized crime structures established in Alta Verapaz,” according to EFE.

Defense Minister Abraham Valenzuela said the army is considering establishing a counter-narcotics base in the department.

Colom ordered the seizure after investigators concluded Los Zetas had hired hitmen to “take control” of Alta Verapaz more than a year ago, Ronaldo Robles, Colom’s spokesman, said on Dec. 19, according to EFE.

The government’s move suspends some constitutional rights and enables law enforcement officials to arrest “anyone suspected of conspiring against the state” without a warrant, according to a statement.

Colom said his country does not have enough police or military personnel to extend operations into neighboring departments but wants to increase the army’s size from 17,000 to 21,000 troops in 2011, according to EFE.

Colombia: 3 FARC rebels die in firefight

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Three members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), including a squad leader, were killed in a gunfight with the army in the department of Arauca, a military spokesman said.

The FARC member who died was second-in-command of the FARC’s Julio Mario Tavera squad based in Arauca, which is on the Venezuelan border, according to the Colombian daily El Espectador.

A female FARC member was injured in the firefight and was transported to a regional hospital near the city of Arauquita, where she was treated for non-life-threatening wounds.

The army confiscated guns, bullets, communications equipment and documents after the fighting ceased, according to EFE.

The FARC commander who died in the firefight was one of the FARC’s highest-ranking leaders since its chief, Jorge Briceño, who went by the alias “Mono Jojoy,” was killed during a bombing of a FARC camp in the department of Meta on Sept. 22.

Honduras: Authorities find 500 kilograms of cocaine in plane

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Honduran Police and U.S. counter-narcotics agents raided a plane containing 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of cocaine in the jungle along the border with Nicaragua, Oscar Álvarez, Honduras’ minister of security said.

The plane landed last week on a hidden airstrip on the outskirts of Awas Bila, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) northeast of the nation’s capital.

“We discovered it when several unknown men unloaded the drugs from the plane, and when they saw us they fled,” Álvarez said to the Guatemalan website El Periódico.

No arrests were made, but Álvarez said agents seized a truck, fragmentation grenades and a chainsaw, according to the Venezuelan website El Tiempo.

Honduran officials said more than 1,000 tons of cocaine pass annually through the Central American nation from Colombia en route to the United States.

Colombia: Police seize 202 kilograms of cocaine

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Police seized 202 kilograms (445 pounds) of cocaine found in two stolen cars traveling from the department of Valle del Cauca to the nation’s capital, officials said.

The narcotic, which was expected to be shipped to Mexico, is suspected of belonging to a syndicate allegedly headed by Diego Pérez Henao, according to the Criminal Investigation Department. Pérez Henao, who goes by the alias “Diego Rastrojo,” is suspected of operating several narcotics laboratories in the Andean nation, according to the department.

“The vehicles carrying false plates were stolen on November 13 in Bogotá,” the department said in a statement.

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