Guatemalan authorities March 2 arrested three top anti-narcotics officials—days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to visit the Central American nation to discuss Drug War strategy. Baltázar Gómez Barrios, chief of the National Civil Police (PNC), was detained along with “Drug Czar” Nelly Judith Bonilla and her advisor Fernando Carrillo at the Division of Anti-Narcotics Analysis and Information (DAIA). They are accused of running a corruption ring linked to a gun-battle last April between traffickers and police over a 700-kilo consignment of confiscated cocaine in Amatitlán. Five DAIA agents were killed in the gun-fight, and 13 have been since been arrested in connection with it. (NYT, FT,* Siglo XX1, Guatemala, March 3; El Periodico, Guatemala, March 2)
Days before the arrests, Carlos Castresana, head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) announced that last months he received verbal warnings from the former minister of Gobernación, Raúl Velásquez of resurgent death squads in the country. Gobernación’s former vice-minister of Community Support, Francisco Cuevas, similarly stated in a radio broadcast that two death squads are active in the country, led by Gobernación vice-minister for Security, Marlene Blanco Lapola. He said informants told him in October that the groups are made up of some 30 men each, and one was code-named “El Payaso” (the Clown). (El Periodico, CEG, March 3)
*The Financial Times incorrectly names the PNC chief as “Baltázar González”
See our last post on Guatemala.