GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemalan security forces arrested 15 suspected members of Los Zetas, considered Mexico’s most violent drug cartel, National Civilian Police, or PNC, spokesman Donald Gonzalez said.
The suspects – five Mexicans and 10 Guatemalans – were detained on Saturday in the northern city of Coban, said Gonzalez, adding that two members of the group were women.
Eight assault rifles, two RPG-7s, a grenade, ammunition for large-caliber weapons, bullet-proof vests and other gear were found at the house where the Zetas members were living, the PNC spokesman said.
President Alvaro Colom declared a two-month state of emergency in the city of Coban and in Alta Verapaz province in December in an effort to capture Los Zetas members operating there.
Los Zetas was blamed for the massacre last month of 27 peasants in Peten, a province next to Alta Verapaz.
Colom declared a state of emergency in Peten, which borders Mexico and Belize, as part of efforts to track down members of the Zetas gang suspected of involvement in the massacre.
Peten, a province covered by dense jungles, is used by international drug traffickers to smuggle narcotics from South America into Mexico.
Investigators suspect that the “Zeta 200” cell of Los Zetas killed the peasants.
Officials do not have detailed figures on the number of killings carried out by Los Zetas in Guatemala, but they say that the cartel has been behind at least a dozen massacres that have claimed the lives of about 100 people since 2008.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
After about a decade on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
Los Zetas, in addition to trafficking drugs, is also involved in kidnappings, armed robberies and extortion rackets.