Authorities in Guatemala have arrested four police officers on charges of arms trafficking, drug trafficking and murder, providing an unsettling sense of déjà vu.
On November 25, the Attorney General's Office reported several operations that took place in five departments across the country, including 13 raids and seven arrests, intended to “dismantle the Los Infiltrados gang,” according to a post on the institution's official Twitter account.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office later stated that the gang was dedicated to “van theft, murder plots, aggravated robbery, as well as drug shakedowns,” El Periódico reported. According to police jargon, shakedowns are the theft of drug shipments between criminal groups.
These raids are a continuation of others conducted a month ago, focused on Los Infiltrados, a criminal gang allegedly comprised of active and retired police officers.
The gang's range of operations included the departments of Jutiapa, Escuintla, Suchitepéquez, Retalhuleu and San Marcos, all located on Guatemala's well-transited Pacific drug route. These departments have historically served as a drug trafficking corridor, with cocaine shipments arriving by sea to ports along the coast and near the border with El Salvador, by land from Honduras or by air from South America.
InSight Crime Analysis
Whilst on a smaller scale, the activities attributed to Los Infiltrados are similar to those carried out by members of the Guatemalan police during the 2000s, when several high-ranking officials were charged with drug trafficking, murder-for-hire and other crimes.
Most famously, three Salvadoran officials traveling to Guatemala City were murdered in 2007 by a group of police officers with a similar profile to Los Infiltrados. Those murders resulted in a wave of international pressure that contributed to the establishment just months later of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG).
Investigations by the Attorney General’s Office and the CICIG determined that the Guatemalan police implicated in the 2007 massacre intercepted and killed the Salvadoran officials after finding out one of them was transporting drugs and money, therefore they intercepted the group and killed them. The CICIG determined that the Salvadoran congressmen were in fact traveling with $5 million and 20 kilograms of cocaine.
The investigations into the massacre, which authorities later named the Parlacen Case, uncovered the existence of at least two organized criminal groups embedded in Guatemala’s security apparatus during the administration of former president Óscar Berger (2004-2008), including high-ranking police officials and cabinet members.
One of those investigated was Alejandro Giammattei, the country's prison director at the time and the current president of Guatemala. Giammattei, who was accused of allowing the systematic killing of prison inmates, was later acquitted.
Los Infiltrados operated in the same areas and committed the same types of crimes as criminal networks embedded in the Guatemalan state over the last decade. The investigation now needs to determine how far up the chain of command the group's influence went.