HomeNewsBriefGuatemala Authorities Reveal New Details in Byron Lima Murder Case
BRIEF

Guatemala Authorities Reveal New Details in Byron Lima Murder Case

ELITES AND CRIME / 4 AUG 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

Authorities in Guatemala have made several arrests and revealed previously-unknown details regarding the slaying of Byron Lima, the one-time "king" of the country's prisons. The new revelations suggest that there may have been more than one motive for the murder.

Attorney General Thelma Aldana and Iván Velázquez, the head of the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG), held a press conference on August 3 to present details of the investigation into the July 2016 killing of former army captain turned prison boss Byron Lima and thirteen other people in the Pavón prison.

The conference followed shortly after news of the capture of several suspects in the case, including Sara Elizabeth Cruz Mansilla, the wife of Marvin Montiel Marín, alias "El Taquero." Since the start of the investigation into Lima's murder more than a year ago, officials have maintained that El Taquero ordered Byron Lima killed because the former army captain had disturbed his drug selling business.

Reaffirming this line of investigation, authorities described how Cruz Mansilla and several other captured individuals allegedly introduced the weapons and explosives that would be used for the massacre into the Pavón prison by faking construction material delivery passes and exploiting the lax prison security checks.

"We conclude therefore that between Marvin Montiel Marín and Byron Miguel Lima there existed a conflict to obtain control of ... Pavón," Velázquez stated, noting that tensions between the two inmates went back to 2015 when they were housed in another prison.

SEE ALSO: Reign of the Kaibil - Guatemala's Prisons Under Byron Lima

During the same conference, Velázquez offered some striking information on the conduct of two of the highest-ranking prison officials at the time, namely the former director of the penitentiary system, Luis Carlos de León Zea, who surrendered himself to authorities on August 3 according to Prensa Libre, and former deputy director for operations, Basilio Hernández Guzmán, one of the individuals arrested.

According to the head of the CICIG, three separate internal reports during April and May 2016 warned the prison officials about the risk that other inmates might attempt to kill Byron Lima. A fourth report by the director of Pavón also cautioned in May 2016 that weapons were available in the prison and asked for resources to fix security breaches.

"Knowing the existence of the real and imminent risk that Byron Lima would suffer an attempt [on his life], given that they did nothing to avoid it, they are responsible as if they had done it. This is what is known as 'guilt by omission,'" Velázquez said.

One particularly notable and previously-unreported detail about the attack on Lima also emerged during the presentation: Four days before the incident, Hernández Guzmán had lifted the government protection of personal bodyguards that he had granted to Lima soon after his arrival in Pavón. It remains unclear why this decision was made, but this has raised suspicions that the former official may have been more than passively involved in the incident.

InSight Crime Analysis

As InSight Crime chronicled after interviewing Byron Lima himself in prison, the military-style rule he imposed on the institution and his efforts to stop the sale of certain narcotics certainly earned the former army captain a number of enemies behind bars, including El Taquero.

But while the evidence presented seems to support the idea that Montiel Marín and his accomplices were the material authors of Lima's killing, details such as the lifting of Byron Lima's extra security protection just days before his murder raises the question of whether there may have been other powerful players who wanted him dead.

"It is possible that those captured for the murder of Byron Lima and 13 other people are nothing more than the intermediate actors of said crimes," Pedro Trujillo, a Guatemalan journalist and professor, told InSight Crime. But, he added, "given the level of perfection and planning with which it was executed, it would seem that there are intellectual authors of a much higher level and sophistication."

SEE ALSO: Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

As InSight Crime previously reported, Lima had made enemies out of powerful political figures, including former Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla, who is currently jailed in Guatemala with a US extradition request pending against him for unrelated drug trafficking charges. This has contributed to suspicions that the ex-minister may have played a role in the killing.

"It's hard to believe that someone like Lima, with powerful enemies including politicians, drug traffickers and figures from organized crime, would have been murdered by an inmate serving alongside him for an issue of power struggle within the prison," Trujillo said.

However, Trujillo warned that Guatemala's history suggests that despite the capture of some of the alleged "material authors" of the crime (those who actually carried it out), the "intellectual authors" (those who planned and ordered the murder) may still escape justice.

"It is possible that [the case] of the assassination of the former captain never goes so far as judging the upper echelons that planned it," he said.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 5 JAN 2012

A prison riot in the northern state of Tamaulipas left at least 31 people dead and at least another 13…

EL SALVADOR / 26 APR 2019

Although gangs dominate the extortion markets in Central America, corrupt state agents will collude with them and even run some of their own extortion schemes.

CACHIROS / 27 AUG 2019

The former mayor who may bring down Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández first appears on page eight of what can…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…