Officials in Guatemala have connected a massacre of nine people in the northern state of Peten to "score settling" among drug traffickers, in what appears another manifestation of the turmoil afflicting the region since the debilitation of the Zetas Mexican criminal group, and the capture and extradition of several powerful local traffickers.
The nine victims -- most related to the same family by blood or marriage, including two young children -- were reported to have died at the hands of 20 heavily armed men, who entered a property in the municipality of San Luis in the early morning hours of February 8, reported Siglo 21.
Among the dead were Samuel Xal Xo, three of his sons, the wife of one son and their two young children. Two more people whose connection to the family was not established were also killed.
According to Minister of the Interior Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, the dead were linked to well known drug trafficker Sebastian Cacao Ico, alias "El Cochero." Cacao was himself linked to the trafficking organization of Otto Turcios, who was captured in Belize and deported to the United States in 2010, reported Prensa Libre.
As reported by Siglo 21, a surviving son of Xal Xo has claimed the killers were connected to Turcios, suggesting the event was the result of score settling either within an organization or between former allies.
InSight Crime Analysis
As Guatemala's most northerly province -- bordered on two sides by Mexico -- Peten is prime a drug trafficking corridor and hotly contested by trafficking groups. In 2011, the Zetas famously massacred 27 farm workers in the municipality of La Libertad, as part of a brutal incursion to establish a presence in the country.
While the Zetas maintain a presence in Guatemala, their power has waned significantly, just as it has in their homeland of Mexico. Dozens of high level members have been arrested or killed in the last two years in Guatemala.
SEE ALSO: Zetas in Guatemala
But in the absence of the Zetas, Peten has remained a crucial thoroughfare and landing point for drugs, with the Mendoza clan one of the most notable trafficking groups present in the region. The region has also been beset by fighting for control between rival trafficking groups.
These spats strech back years. Turcios, for example, had established a working relationship with another important trafficker, Horst Walther Overdick, who helped facilitate the Zetas' incursion. Turcios' apparent link to both the victims and perpetrators of this latest massacre suggests it could be part of the continued fallout from the power vacuum left by his capture in Belize and Overdick's later capture in Guatemala.