Today in Latin America
Top Story — Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom announced Wednesday the arrest of an alleged Zeta leader and former Guatemalan soldier in connection with the killing of cattle ranch workers on Saturday.
Hugo Álvaro Gómez Vásquez, also known as “the Witch”, was arrested on a triple murder charge related to the mass killings in Petén. He is accused of kidnapping and killing three people related to the owner of the farm where the bodies were found, but investigators refrained from saying if he was directly linked to the people killed on the farm.
Gómez Vásquez is a former member of Guatemala’s Kaibiles, a group of specialized soldiers trained in counterinsurgency tactics. He also allegedly has a strong relationship with the Zetas drug cartel, who are very active in the northern departments of Guatemala that border Mexico.
Saturday’s mass murder, which President Colom called “sadistic and perverse”, left 27 people dead in the town of Caserío La Bomba in the northern department (province) of Petén. The killers decapitated several victims and left their body parts strewn across the area.
Guatemalan authorities sent eight teams into the field to attempt to shed light on the murders, which is one of the nation’s worst since the end of the civil war in 1996.
Gómez Vásquez was taken by helicopter to Petén’s capital of Alta Verapaz under heavy security. He has denied the charges brought against him.
“They are accusing me of many things … but I’m a farmer. I’m from Petén,” he said during in a brief statement to the media.
Breaking News: A commercial airplane traveling from Neuquén to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, crashed on Wednesday, killing all 22 people on board. The Saab 340 plane belonged to Sol Airlines, which posted a statement to its Web site Wednesday night saying that the company did not yet have any information about the cause of the crash.
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
- Demobilized FARC guerrillas face poverty, lack of jobs and numerous temptations upon returning to civilian life, reports Russ Finkelstein from Bogotá.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- A new state law in Arizona, which takes effect in July, would allow the state to build a barrier on the border with Mexico to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the U.S.
- Gunmen in the Mexican state of Tabasco killed eight people after opening fire on an auto body shop in the city of Cárdenas.
- An anti-immigration bill in South Carolina passed through the state’s House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
- The Council of Ministers in Cuba said self-employed workers could now hire non-family members, as the government seeks to expand private sector jobs.
- The U.N. Security Council urged Haiti’s new Government to focus on the critical tasks of rebuilding the country and ensuring stability and rule of law in the Caribbean country.
- Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla was in California this week to speak to high-tech and biotechnology leaders.
- The El Salvadoran newspaper El Faro reported that the Texis drug cartel control the drug shipment routes that cut across the north of El Salvador, from the border with Honduras to the border with Guatemala.
- Venezuelan prosecutors say a newspaper columnist who was also an opposition political activist has been shot to death.
- Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa will face an investigation into whether his presidential campaign received money from Colombian leftist guerrillas, Ecuador’s attorney general’s office said.
- The head of a Bolivian energy company said he might sign a deal that would allow Russian gas company Gazprom to explore for hydrocarbons in the country.
- Foreign Policy interviews former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who discussed how his country came back from the brink, why he’s staying in politics, and why it’s dangerous (but worth it) to be on Twitter.
- A U.S. federal appeals court ruled that Daimler has to face a lawsuit, which alleges its Argentine Mercedes-Benz unit worked with security forces to kill and torture workers during the country’s “Dirty War.”
- Chile’s Central Bank President José De Gregorio said that IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn should step down after his arrest and detention in a New York.
- Guinness World Records announced that a Brazilian woman became the world’s oldest living person at the age of 114 and 313 days.
Image: Gobierno de Guatemala @ Flickr.