GUATEMALA CITY – Three suspected members of Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel were arrested in western Guatemala for allegedly displaying a message that said they were waging war against the rival Gulf cartel and its supporters, the National Civilian Police, or PNC, said.
Jose Arturo Godoy Artola, 32, Cristofer Jose Cardona Chen, 20, and a teenager, whose identity was not released, were arrested Saturday for carrying a sheet with messages threatening the Gulf cartel, a PNC spokesman said.
The three suspects, all Guatemalan citizens, were arrested in Quetzaltenango province.
The message on the sheet also threatened war “against Otto Salguero, who is one of the most important suppliers of cocaine to the Gulf cartel.”
“Press, stop talking crap before the war is with you. The one who warns is not a traitor. Sincerely Z 200,” said the message provided by police.
Salguero is one of the owners of the ranch in the northern province of Peten where 27 farmworkers were massacred a week ago by Los Zetas.
President Alvaro 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.
The security forces have arrested Guatemalan suspect Hugo Alvarez Gomez, a former army soldier who, according to Colom, is a senior Zetas leader with direct links to the massacre.
Investigators suspect that the “Zeta 200” cell of Los Zetas, considered Mexico’s most violent drug cartel, killed the hired hands.
Three eyewitnesses, including a wounded massacre survivor and a pregnant woman spared by the gunmen, have been placed in a witness protection program and are providing information to investigators.
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.