Narco-mantas (drug cartel blankets or banners) placed on display by organized crime groups has been a practice common in Mexico. Using bed sheets, poster board or canvas they are used by cartels to convey a message or threat, or audaciously displayed as a “Help Wanted” advertisement. However this practice has been a rare occurrence in Guatemala.
That has begun to change as Los Zetas have taken control of large areas of Guatemala, none more important than Peten. Peten is the department (province) the largest in size and is geographically situated along the northernmost border. This is the border it shares with Mexico, making the department critical for drug trafficking into Mexico, on its journey to the United States drug market.
According to the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre, one of those mantas was left just outside a school in San Benito, Peten, and were signed by “Z200” said to be a leader of the Los Zetas cartel in Guatemala. The message warned the government their pursuit of the cartel will result in deaths of civilians.
The manta read:
(Translated into English)
"To all civil and military authorities and the population in general stop persecution of the race or we will start killing. We will throw grenades into discos and shopping centers in Petén ... because this is 'Z' territory we don't want a war against the government this is a warning. Z200”
“A todas las autoridades sibiles i militares y poblasión en general parenles (... detengan la) persecucion contra la raza o empesaremos a matar vamos a lanzar granadas en discos y sentros comerciales en Petén (...) xq esto es territorio “Z” no queremos una guerra contra el govierno esto es una advertencia at Z200 (sic)”.
The manta caused anxiety and terror among the Guatemala citizens. General consensus of the population believes the messages from the Zetas were in direct reaction to the arrest of Gustavo Adolfo Colindres Arreaga, 25, aka “El Rochoy”, allegedly the leader of the Zetas drug structure in Northern region of Guatemala. Rochoy was captured in the village of San Benito. Rochoy is a Guatemala citizen.
Peten Governor Henry Amezquita told the press the appearance of the banner was the work of "criminal groups that want to destabilize," not specifically referring to Los Zetas, nonetheless suggested the threat was "a reprisal" for the arrest of Gustavo Colindres, a purported Zetas boss.
At a press conference Minister Mauricio López Bonilla stated "Today Gustavo Adolfo Colindres,was captured, alias "Commander Rochoy” as a result of searches for criminals started on Saturday and weapons searches for 15 days". Rochoy was air lifted to a maximum security prison.
Reported in Guatemalan media sources , Rochoy was formerly enlisted with the Kaibiles. Kaibiles are the special forces wing of the Guatemalan Army. In rejecting the reports the official said “there are no records that indicate that”.
In the week prior, the recent manta was preceded by multiple mantas being hung in Guatemala City, along the busiest of highways.
The mantas in Guatemala City were of a friendlier tone, and praised the Guatemala president for his proposal to legalize drugs. The message also noted their support for the crackdown of youth gangs known as “Maras”. Mara Salvatrucha Central American Gangs arguably are the most violent in the world. An astounding 73% of the population of Guatemala is under the age of 30. Of those a third are between the ages of 15-30, the age of initiation age for the gang is 14.
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It is the Maras that are said to be responsible for much of the crime in the country.
One of the mantas read:
"Pérez and (Vice President Roxana) Baldetti, go through with legalizing drugs, and we support fighting the maras ... Zeta 200" and "A thousand thanks general Otto Pérez and Roxana Baldetti for legalizing drugs ... Zeta 200,"
The message was in reference to President Pérez Molina, who has been calling for an international discussion on drug legalization as a strategy for fighting drug traffickers.
It was last May in San Benito that Zetas conducted a mass slaughter of ranch workers resulting in 27 deaths. The ranch owner Otto Salguero was the target of the attackers but escaped the onslaught by being absent from the ranch at the time. The criminals left a macabre message for Salguero written on the side of a building, using the blood of a victim’s leg.
|Decapitated heads from the 27 victims|
|Zetas leave a message written with the blood of a victims leg |
President Otto Perez Molina has blamed the drug cartels for the high levels of violence in Guatemala, a country of 14 million with a homicide rate of 52 per 100,000 inhabitants, over triple the homicide rate of Mexico which is 15 according to UNDOC.
The Guatemalan president said that Los Zetas arrived in Guatemala four years ago attempting to "co-op" Guatemalan drug traffickers, this resulted in violent attacks or death unleashed against those who rejected the offer.
Guatemalan authorities acknowledge that the Zetas have a large presence in the the country.El gobernante guatemalteco ha dicho que Los Zetas llegaron a Guatemala hace unos cuatro años para “cooptar” a narcotraficantes guatemaltecos y desataron violentos ataques contra quienes rechazaron su ofrecimiento.