Central America: Guatemala arrests 18 gang members in massive raid operation
Guatemala arrests 18 gang members in massive raid operation, as prominent Honduran radio reporter is kidnapped and Panama strongman Manuel Noriega is hospitalized.
Guatemala arrests 18 gang members in massive raid operation
Guatemalan security forces arrested 18 gang members in a large-scale operation Friday involving some 40 raids.
The detainees are responsible for 26 murders committed between 2010 and 2012, officials said.
According to authorities, weapons, drugs and extortion money were also seized during the raid.
At a joint press conference, Attorney General Claudia Paz and Minister of the Interior Mauricio Lopéz said that the 18 detainees are members of the ‘Solo Raperos’ (Only Rappers – SR) gang, an offshoot of the infamous Mara 18 (M-18).
According to López, 13 gang members were arrested in the El Limon area, north of the capital, and the other five in the southern city of Mazatenango. Among those arrested six were women, one of whom was a minor.
The minister described the operation as ‘very successful’ and as ‘a blow’ to the SR structure, which Lopéz dubbed as ‘vicious, wicked and bloodthirsty’. SR has been active since 2010.
Meanwhile, Paz said that since 2010 the 18 gang members were involved in the murder of 26 people, including 11 women, two of which the gang members reportedly ‘dismembered’.
Lopéz said that other leaders and members of SR are in prison for crimes of murder and extortion, and announced that raid operations to dismantle the so-called ‘maras’ will continue. According to minister, the ‘maras’ are responsible for 60 per cent of homicides in Guatemala.
Prominent Honduran radio reporter is kidnapped
Meanwhile in Honduras, on Wednesday prominent Honduran radio journalist Alfredo Villatoro was kidnapped around 5am as he was driving to work in Tegucigalpa. A formal investigation is now underway, but his whereabouts are still unknown.
Villatoro is one of the coordinators of the news station HRN, one of the two major radio networks in Honduras.
A former National Police sub-inspector was arrested at a police checkpoint in the Honduran capital for his alleged connection with the kidnapping.
Prior to the incident, the journalist said he had been the target of several death threats. His abduction comes just days after the death of another journalist in Honduras.
Deputy prosecutor Urtecho Roy said the kidnapping of Villatoro will not go unpunished.
‘Such acts will not go unpunished,’ said Roy, while maintaining that he cannot advance details on the results of the investigation headed by the public prosecutor’s office so as not to compromise the investigation’s success and the integrity of Villatoro.
Panama strongman Manuel Noriega is hospitalized
Also this week, former de facto ruler of Panama (1983-1989) General Manuel Noriega, 78, was hospitalized late on Wednesday due to chest complications related to bronchitis, which has aggravated of late because of Noriega’s age, doctors said.
Physicians caring for the former president also stated that he is being treated with strong antibiotics to prevent the worsening of his health condition.
Since December 2011, when the strongman returned to Panama, Noriega’s defense has been seeking permission for him to serve his sentence under house arrest.
For 22 years, Noriega was imprisoned in the United States and France. Noriega is serving a sentence for various crimes, including human rights violations.
Last year, he was extradited to Panama from France, where he was serving a prison sentence for money laundering some 2.3m euros in drug trafficking assets.
At the end of last year, a French court approved the first request for extradition presented by Panama – for the murder of opposition frontman Hugo Spadafora. In late December 2011, he was extradited to Panama, after a long negotiation process.