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At least 27 killed in attack on Guatemala farm: Police

Police say the killings could be linked to drug gangs operating in the area.

Guatemala City: At least 27 people were
found decapitated on a farm in northern Guatemala on the Mexican border, and police officials say the killings could be
linked to drug gangs operating in the area.

"Among the 27 dead were two women. All of them were
beheaded," the spokesman for the Guatemalan police, Donald
Gonzalez, said. He added that homicide officers from the
national police were on the scene, but they do not yet know
when the killings occurred.

The bodies were discovered in the department of Peten at a farm in San Andres, some 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of the capital yesterday.

If the killings are linked to the Mexican drug
cartels, they would be among the largest ever in Guatemala
tied to the criminal gangs.

Police chief Jaime Otzin told reporters there were few
details, but that police were investigating two possibilities
related to drug gangs.

The first involved the Mexican cartel "Los Zetas" that
operates in the region, trafficking drugs through Latin
America en route to the lucrative market in the United States.

The second possibility is that the killings were
related to the murder on Saturday of Haroldo Lara Leon, a
farmer and brother of the late drug trafficker Juan Jose Leon,
who was killed by the Zetas gang in 2008.

Haroldo Leon was killed while riding in a truck on a
country road with some 250,000 quetzales (around USD 31,000)
cash, money he apparently intended to use to pay his workers.
Otzin did not suggest how the murders might be

Guatemala already has one of the highest murder rates
in Latin America, an average of 18 per day. Most crimes are
attributed to feared drug gangs known as "maras."

On November 30, 2008, 20 people were killed in the
village of Agua Clara in the department of Huehuetenango near
the border with Mexico.

Three weeks earlier authorities found a burned bus
with the bodies of 15 Nicaraguans and one Dutchmen, who had
come to buy Guatemalan merchandise, on a road in the
department of Zacapa.

The high numbers of homicides and systemic failure of
the judicial system in a country where 98% of crimes go
unpunished led the United Nations to create the International
Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which began
operations in late 2007.

The Commission is charged with investigating and
prosecuting serious crime in Guatemala. So far, several former
senior officials and former police chiefs have been arrested
and face prosecution by the committee.


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