A combined unit of the Guatemalan army and national police arrested a presumed leader of the Zetas narco-paramilitary network May 18, who authorities believe to be commander of the assassination squad that carried out this week's grisly massacre of 27 farmworkers at a ranch in the northern jungle department of Petén. The detained man is named as Hugo Álvaro Gómez Vásquez, who also goes by "Comandante Bruja" or simply "La Bruja" (The Witch, despite his gender). He was apprehended in Tactic, Alta Verapaz department, following a raid earlier that day on a Petén ranch known as La Mula, just 15 kilometers from Los Cocos ranch where the massacre took place. Authorities say a Zetas encampment was discovered at La Mula, in La Libertad municipality, along with clues on the whereabouts of Gómez Vásquez (see map).
Gómez is formally charged only in the kidnapping and murder of three members of the family of purported Los Cocos owner Otto Salguero while an investigation is pending into his role in the massacre. Military uniforms, 28 rifles, and vehicles believed to have been used in the massacre were seized in the raid. Authorities say that from 2002 to 2005, Gómez was a member of the Kaibiles, the Guatemalan army's elite counter-insurgency force. At least 20 others are being sought in connection with the massacre, and authorities have been alerted in Mexico and the other Central American republics. (Europa Press, Spain, May 19; Prensa Latina, Cuba, APRO, Mexico, Prensa Libre, Prensa Libre, Guatemala, EFE, May 18)