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1800 Grenades Destined for the Zetas Are Seized from Salvadoran Military Personnel

By Dialogo
June 29, 2011

The more than 1800 grenades seized from a group of Salvadoran military personnel, who were trying to irregularly divert them from a destruction procedure, are believed to have been destined for the Zetas criminal group, of Mexican origin but also believed to be operating in Guatemala, Salvadoran Minister of National Defense Gen. David Munguía Payés confirmed on 24 June.

Munguía Payés announced the arrest of six military personnel for the attempted theft of M-67 grenades at the end of May. The criminal cell that had infiltrated the Army was in contact with Los Zetas in Guatemala, the Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Gráfica [The Illustrated Press] reported.

“The president (Funes) highlighted the importance of intelligence work in the sense of detecting a cell that had infiltrated into the Armed Forces here,” the head of the Salvadoran Armed Forces said.

The “cell,” according to the minister, “had the intention of getting hand grenades and taking them to Guatemala, and according to the information we have, the grenades’ final destination was possibly going to be this narco-criminal group, Los Zetas.”

The military personnel had been arrested a month earlier, in April, and were working in the department in charge of destroying armaments. According to the military commander’s account, they simulated the grenades’ destruction with explosive charges, while hiding them underground on a rural property in the municipality of Tapalhuapa, in the department of La Paz.

Munguía Payés flatly rejected the existence of a perennial criminal infiltration in the Army, despite individual cases. “Our intelligence services have been quite active, and we were able to dismantle this cell … but from there to us being infiltrated by criminal groups is a different matter,” the general said, according to the same article in the Salvadoran newspaper.

The Salvadoran Armed Forces have been collaborating with the National Civil Police (PNC) in fighting common criminality and organized crime since November 2009, under a presidential order that has already been extended at least twice, most recently on 7 May, when it was extended for another year.