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ANALYSIS

Message from Zetas to Guatemala's President

GUATEMALA / 28 DEC 2010 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

The following is a message allegedly from the Zetas criminal organization, played by the local radio station La Buena in Coban, the capital of the beseiged province of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, on December 27.

The Guatemalan government declared a state of siege in the province on December 19, which includes increased search and seizures, arrests and detentions of suspects and military checkpoints. Several arrests and confiscations have been made, but local journalists in Coban tell InSight Crime that the Zetas may have been tipped off by the police that the measures were coming and escaped before army reinforcements arrived.

They fear that the gang, which was the former enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel in Mexico that expanded into Guatemala in 2008, may be regrouping, prepaing for a counterassault.

The core of the Zetas leadership are former Mexican and Guatemalan military personnel, giving the radio message extra currency.  Propaganda is a central part of any military strategy, and the radio message, it appears, may be preparing the terrain for more concerted military and political action by the group.

To be sure, in the radio message (available below), the Zetas make reference to the "bigote" (mustache), a possible reference to Obdulio Solorzano, a former Guatemalan congressman who was assassinated in July in Guatemala City. Solorzano, sources tell InSight Crime, may have been the Zetas bagman and connection to President Alvaro Colom, who the Zetas say took $11.5 million in campaign contributions from them.

The message also says Colom betrayed the group by handing Ottoniel Turcios, a Guatemalan drug trafficker who was captured in Belize in 25 October.

The Zetas are also known to threaten journalists in Mexico into serving as their spokespeople. In this case, the reporter says the people who gave him the message gave the station an hour to play it or the group would burn down it down.

Radio transmission (translated by InSight Crime):

This is a message to the President of Guatemala. We are the Zetas group, and we just wanted the country to know that President Alvaro Colom received $11,500,000 before elections ended. He will pay for failing to comply, be it [via] guilty or innocent [people].

We will start the war in this country, in malls, in schools and in police stations in this country. These will be the payments of the $11,500,000 that the president owes. The person who sends this message is the same one who gave [the president] the money. He has license plates and the addresses where the money was handed over, and, you, Mr. President, are the one who sold the country out to the Zetas. Now you will pay the price, surprises that will come with actions not words. Proof will be what happens in Alta Verapaz.

In these coming days, in a meeting center, many people will die. Comply with your promises or fight with the beast. You killed mustache ("Bigote") and you handed over to the DEA [Ottoniel] Turcios because they were the people who gave you the money. Now the only one who is missing is you.

If this message is not put on the air in an hour, the radio station will burn, if you fail to get this message out. The families of those who work at the station will be executed if you do not read it. And if you do read it, their lives will be spared.

And don't think this is a joke, because this is going to be a nightmare for the President of the Republic, Alvaro Colom. We are serious people and we will act.

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