As details emerge, various reports this morning finger the Zetas as responsible for the late Saturday/early Sunday massacre of over two dozen rural laborers on a ranch in the Guatemalan province of Petén. In a nationally broadcast address Monday Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom suggested a drug cartel was behind the killings and said a state of siege would be declared in the province to root out the perpetrators.
According to AP, the president said he’d even personally travel to the Petén to “direct operations."
Meanwhile, the details of the gruesome killings were retold to journalists, including AP, on Monday by an individual who appears to have survived the massacre by pretending to have been killed. Another pregnant woman present at the ranch was also spared by what most now say were 30-50 assailants who arrived at the ranch by truck late Saturday. AP says the intended target of the attacks was the ranch’s owner, Otto Salguero. His whereabouts is currently unknown.
Mike Allison at Central American Politics has a good rundown of what is known about the massacre at the present moment, based on a variety of press reports. He notes that while the assassins did not identify themselves to their victims, there are some indications that the group's leader called himself “Kaibil,” the name of Guatemala’s notorious special forces unit during the country’s dirty wars of the 1980s.
Insight Crime also raises some interesting questions about who the Zetas in Guatemala actually are. El Periodico, on the other hand, looks at who the innocent victims killed Sunday were.
Today’s bullet points:
· Guatemala’s Plaza Pública reports on a new far right wing candidate in Guatemala’s election campaign, industrial magnate Ricardo Sagastume Morales, aligned with the Frente de Convergencia Nacional (FCN) of retired general José Luis Quilo Ayuso. The report suggests one of the Frente’s principal gripes has been the work of the UN-backed anti-impunity commission, the CICIG.
· In neighboring El Salvador, El Faro published yesterday its most significant investigative report to-date on organized crime in that country– an epic report on the so-called “Texis Cartel” operating in Salvador’s northwest and controlled by 62-year-old businessman José Adán Salazar Umaña, aka “Chepe Diablo.” El Faro’s report is based a series of intelligence reports obtained by the independent news site. The reports go back over a decade and give first-time details of perhaps the most important cocaine smuggling routes through El Salvador, connecting Honduras with Guatemala, and implicating numerous government officials and security officials.
· In Peru, Reuters with more on the addition of former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani to Keiko Fujimori’s list of informal advisers – an attempt, according to some, to distance herself from her father’s highly controversial security policies. A new issue of Revista Ideele also has a number of articles on the upcoming Peruvian second-round vote which look like they are worth reading, among them Jo-Marie Burt on the legacy of “Fujimorismo” and Gustavo Gorriti on Fujimori vs. Humala.
· AP reports that a new MINUSTAH chief in Haiti was named Monday. Replacing outgoing MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet will be former Chilean foreign minister Mariano Fernandez, UN Sec. General Ban Ki Moon announced yesterday.
· Colombia’s El Tiempo reports on the resignation of that country’s ambassador to Venezuela, José Fernando Bautista, because of apparent connections to the Nule group, currently being investigated in a major corruption scandal. More from Semana and Colombia Reports.
· BBC Mundo reports on the creation of a new presidential commission on gun control in Venezuela – an attempt to reduce the number of weapons in circulation in the country. According to BBC, the commission will be include officials from the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Supreme Court, the National Assembly, the Ministerio Público, the country’s customs administration, as well as civil society representatives from NGOs working on human rights and arms control issues.
· WOLA highlights an attack on labor rights lawyer Hernán Darío in the Colombian city of Cali late last week. Darío is currently the lead lawyer in a case defending sugarcane workers who participated in a strike in 2008 from criminal charges. As a US FTA with Colombia moves toward possible approval in the coming weeks, WOLA says the shooting “underscores the continuing and serious labor rights problems in Colombia” and “calls into question whether there has been real progress on the labor rights situation” in the country
· AP mentions the first reports of independent transportation workers in Cuba beginning to unionize as part of the country’s economic reform process.
· IPS reports on Amnesty International’s country report on Brazil, released as part of its annual report last week, and highlighting the serious problems of inequality which have persisted, despite important taken to reduce poverty.
· And on Honduras, the DC-based Center for Democracy in the Americas has released a new report on the need for a new social pact in Honduras to overcome serious problems of social exclusion in the Central American country. The report comes after CDA participated as an observer to the recent National Assembly of the Honduran Resistance (FNRP).