Central American Leaders Promise to Fight Crime after Killings in Guatemala

Central American presidents promised to redouble their efforts to fight organized crime at a meeting chaired by Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom. The call by the leaders comes days after hitmen belonging to the Mexican Los Zetas cartel murdered twenty-seven laborers on a Guatemalan rural property, a massacre for which three suspects have been detained.
WRITER-ID | 23 May 2011

Central American presidents promised to redouble their efforts to fight organized crime at a meeting chaired by Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom.

The call by the leaders comes days after hitmen belonging to the Mexican Los Zetas cartel murdered twenty-seven laborers on a Guatemalan rural property, a massacre for which three suspects have been detained.

“We have made progress on the strategic plan for regional security,” Colom said following the conclave, attended by the presidents of Honduras and El Salvador, Porfirio Lobo and Mauricio Funes respectively, and by delegates from Nicaragua and Belize, in the colonial city of Antigua Guatemala, 45 km west of the capital.

The strategic plan will be defined in Guatemala on 22 and 23 June, at a meeting that will be attended by the Central American presidents, as well as those of the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Colombia, Colom said.

Three suspects have been detained in relation to the killings on the rural property in the northern department of Petén, where the hitmen decapitated their victims, including two women, while police and military personnel continue searching the jungle region along the Mexican border, where Los Zetas operate with impunity.

The detainees are Porfirio García, Toribio Barreno Pérez, and Hugo Álvaro Gómez Vásquez. All three are Guatemalans and are suspected of belonging to Los Zetas.

In addition, the authorities have succeeded in identifying at least twenty former members of the Guatemalan military who are working for Los Zetas and were in charge of guarding family members and friends of Otto Salguero, the owner of the property, whom the hitmen were looking for in order to kill him, police sources said.

The hitmen executed the workers while asking them about the whereabouts of Salguero, who has come under investigation following the killings for suspected ties with drug trafficking.

Los Zetas, whose networks extend from the southern United States to Central America, are a group created by Mexican military personnel who deserted some years ago to join the Gulf cartel, with which they are now clashing.

Colom imposed a state of emergency in Petén and deployed police and soldiers to the region after the massacre, the worst in the country since peace was signed in 1996, following a bloody civil war that lasted thirty-six years.

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