Guatemala claims arrest of local Zetas boss

Guatemalan authorities on Sept. 26 arrested the presumed leader of a Zetas cell in the region along the border with Mexico, where the group's incursion has recently forced the displacement of local residents. Daniel Juan Nicolás, AKA "El Mono" was apprehended in the municipality of Santa Cruz Barillas in the department of Huehuetenango, near the border with Mexico, reported La Prensa Libre. Prior to his arrest, Juan Nicolás allegedly directed the Zetas' operations in the town of Sinlaj for ten months. The town reportedly served as a place to store shipments of drugs and arms, and was home to a Zetas training camp.

As part of the same operation that led to Juan Nicolás' capture, authorities evacuated 44 villagers from Santa Cruz Barillas after the Zetas threatened them with death if they refused to cooperate with the group, reported El Pais. The displaced residents suspect that the Zetas may have buried multiple victims from nearby towns in mass graves. (InSight Crime, Sept. 28)

The Zetas, who are said to have established a zone of control across Guatemala's north, have been held responsible for a "state of siege" against peasant communities, and in one case a massacre of 27 farmworkers. Last year, the government declared a state of emergency in areas of northern Guatemala. A presumed top Zeta commander was arrested in Guatemala in 2008.

On Oct. 1, Guatemalan authorities announced the arrest in the capital of Carlos Alvárez, supposed leader of a gang named in the Nov. 8, 2008 slaying of 16 people aboard a bus. The suspect reportedly led Los Cascabeles kidnapping gang, and helped carry out the 2008, killings of 15 Nicaraguans and a Dutch citizen in the eastern department of Zacapa. The victims were traveling on a bus that had left Managua bound for Guatemala City.

The massacre was allegedly ordered by drug trafficker Marvin Montiel Marín AKA "El Taquero"—who was arrested in February and is now awaiting trial. Investigators say Montiel and his associates intercepted the bus because they believed it was carrying drugs. The criminals took the vehicle to an isolated area and searched it. Finding no drugs, the assailants killed the 16 passengers and set the bus on fire. One man was sentenced in June 2011 to 820 years for his part in the massacre, while another defendant received a three-year term for trying to shield the perpetrators. (LAHT, Oct. 1; Reuters, Feb. 13; Prensa Libre, Feb. 12)