Three bus company employees in Guatemala City were killed by alleged gang members running extortion rackets, highlighting the dangers gangs pose to transport workers throughout the region.
The three men were killed in two separate incidents on July 25. Bus drivers Julio Rivera Lucero and Eder Ramirez were gunned down in the south of the capital by suspected gang members while Juan Jose Godinez, an employee of an intercity bus company, was shot by two men on a motorcycle, reported EFE.
Rivera reportedly organized a recent protest against the inaction of authorities against gangs extorting transit workers in Guatemala City.
According to EFE, the head of Guatemala's anti-extortion task force, created in January, announced that 158 people have been arrested on suspicion of extortion this year.
InSight Crime Analysis
A 2011 InSight Crime investigation highlighted the danger Guatemala's transit workers face from gangs trying to extort them. Between 2007 and 2011, some 500 bus drivers were killed in the country, meaning that they have one of the more dangerous professions in the world. In a number of cases these extorting rings were operated from prisons by incarcerated gang bosses. It is estimated that the racket can earn them thousands of dollars a week.
In June, Guatemalan authorities arrested seven people alleged to have extorted $500,000 over the past four years from Guatemala City bus drivers.
The phenomenon is not confined to Guatemala. Transit workers in El Salvador last year organized a strike to demand a crackdown on extortion rackets operating in the city of San Salvador, while the Honduran government launched special operations in March against the extortion of bus drivers.