Guatemala Launches Operations to Arrest Feared Gang Leaders

By Dialogo
May 15, 2012

Hundreds of police officers and soldiers, supported by military vehicles with guns, launched a vast operation in a working-class area of the Guatemalan capital, where they arrested 13 alleged members of the feared Mara 18 gang, an official source announced on May 12.

The officers moved into 40 sites in Zone 18, in the northern part of the capital, closing several roads where the suspects, believed to be leaders and members of a group of hitmen, were en route, the general secretary of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Mynor Melgar, announced.

Similar actions were carried out in the cities of Mazatenango (in southern Guatemala) and Quetzaltenango (in the western part of the country), where five people were arrested.

“This group had connections in other places, and it’s been possible to establish that it’s a structure that had contacts in other regions of the country,” Melgar commented.

The group is linked to 26 murders that took place between 2010 and 2012, according to the authorities.

The operations form part of a plan by President Otto Pérez Molina, who before taking office promised to wage a frontal assault on crime in Guatemala, considered one of Latin America’s most violent countries, with an average of 16 homicides per day.

Mara 18, which originated in Los Angeles, in the United States, in the 1980s, with a primarily Mexican membership, subsequently expanded its operations to Central American countries and Mexico.

Youth gangs have spread in poor areas and sow terror in the neighborhoods where they operate.

The authorities link them to drug trafficking and arms trafficking, and they have a strong presence in Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras.