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Guatemala declares `state of siege` after massacre

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 17:11

Guatemala City: Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has declared a "state of siege" in the Peten region along the Mexican border where 27 people were killed over the weekend in an alleged drug gang massacre.

The state of emergency will allow authorities to restrict demonstrations and police to carry out raids at night, among other things, media reported.

Colom said the order would last through Tuesday to allow authorities to try to track down the killers, adding that police had captured a suspect and killed two others in an operation in which two policemen were wounded.

"Guatemala must confront this aggression, which is not only in this country, but in the entire region," he said in a televised address late Monday.

Guatemalan authorities have identified 15 of 27 migrant farm workers beheaded in the weekend massacre they blamed on Mexico`s Zetas drug gang.

The killings at "Los Cocos" farm in La Libertad, in the Peten region some 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of the capital Guatemala City, were the worst in the violent Central American nation`s recent history.

Three minors and two women were among the victims, authorities said. Among those identified, the youngest victim was 13 years old.

The Zetas have already spread fear across Mexico for their alleged involvement in a string of massacres, kidnappings and beheadings.

They were formed in the 1990s by former elite Mexican military personnel who became enforcers for the Gulf cartel. The groups are now engaged in a brutal turf war in parts of Mexico.

The Zetas are also reportedly seeking to control the lucrative trafficking corridor through northern Guatemala from local groups, seizing rural farms to use as depots for drugs and weapons.

A spike in violence prompted the Guatemalan government last December to declare a month-long "state of siege" in the northern department of Alta Verapaz.

Guatemala already has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America, an average of 18 per day.


First Published: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 17:11
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