Guatemala militarized after armed attack

Guatemala’s President Otto Pérez Molina said he is considering imposing a state of emergency in Salcajá, Quetzaltenango department, after an armed attack on a substation of the National Civil Police (PNC)  left eight officers dead and their commander abducted June 14. Authorities said the slain officers were disarmed, made to face down on the ground, and then shot in the head, execution-style. Pérez Molina attributed the attack to drug gangs operating in the area, with possible links to Mexican criminal networks such as the Sinaloa Cartel or Los Zetas. Jorge Santos of the International Center for Human Rights Research (CIDH), set up to secure political rights after Guatemala’s civil war, said he hoped “this terror will not lead to greater levels of social control by the executive.”

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the killing “emphatically” and urged authorities to quickly shed light on the events. The Interior Ministry has said that none of the police slain or abducted in the case where under investigation for links to organized crime by the Office of Professional Responsibility (ORP). Pérez Molina has quickly responded to the attack by inaugurating three Citizen Security Squadrons, made up of 503 members of the Military Reserves, who will be deployed in 28 “priority municipalities” throughout the Highlands as an auxiliary force to back up the PNC.

Guatemala is experiencing a wave of violence that now claims an average 16 lives a day, one of the highest rates in Latin America. Authorities estimate that around 50% of violent deaths in Guatemala are linked to the drug trade and gang violence.  (AFP, Prensa Libre, La Hora, translated by Guatemala Times, June 14)