GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom blames drug traffickers for the corruption plaguing the National Civilian Police, or PNC, whose top commanders were sacked last week for allegedly committing crimes.
The president said in stories published in the press Sunday that drug traffickers were not only responsible for 41 percent of the violent incidents in Guatemala but also for the corruption in the police ranks.
Drug traffickers have been able to corrupt many people, including the PNC chiefs, because “they have the ability to pay more than the monthly salaries these people receive,” Colom said.
Of every 1,000 kilos of cocaine smuggled into Guatemala, at least 100 are used for domestic consumption and sold to young people and adults, the president said.
PNC director Porfirio Perez and his assistant director, Rolando Mendoza, were fired last week and “have been placed in the custody of the Attorney General’s Office,” Interior Minister Raul Velasquez said Saturday.
The police agency’s operations chief, Victor Lopez, and deputy director of investigations, Jorge Castellanos, also were removed from their posts.
The high-ranking officers are being investigated over the disappearance of some 118 kilos of cocaine that was part of a consignment seized Thursday in northern Guatemala City, as well as of some $300,000 in cash confiscated in June.
The PNC, according to intelligence reports, seized one ton of cocaine on Thursday from a container but informed prosecutors that 882 kilos had been confiscated.
Attorney General Amilcar Velasquez told reporters there was a six-hour delay between the time the cocaine seizure was made and when that lesser amount was reported.
“It’s possible that (the police chiefs) have ties to the drug cartels and were involved in (removing the drugs),” Velasquez said.
The members of the PNC, which the government has previously acknowledged to be one of the country’s most corrupt institutions, also are under investigation for the disappearance of some $300,000 that was found June 10 inside a vehicle in the southern province of Chimaltenango.
Prosecutors allege that the officers who made the seizure were ordered by Perez to store the money at PNC headquarters and let the person carrying the cash walk free.
The money was handed over hours later to two supposed emissaries of Perez’s, without prosecutors or the courts being informed.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says more than 20 tons of drugs are smuggled through Guatemala each year.