Eight members of Mexican drug gang the Zetas are to be be tried for the massacre of 27 farm laborers in north Guatemala in 2011.
Two Mexicans and six Guatemalans are accused of carrying out the killing, which took place in May 2011, on Los Cocos farm in Peten province, northern Guatemala.
The victims' bodies were severely mutilated, most of them decapitated, and the killers left messages written on the wall in blood, including the alias "Z-200," in reference to the Zetas leader thought to have ordered the crime. It’s believed the laborers had no connection to the drug trade, and were murdered because the farm’s owner, Rudy Ottoniel Salguero Morales, stole a drug shipment from the criminal group.
As of March 2012, 80 alleged Zetas members, both Mexican and Guatemalan, had been arrested in connection with the crime, according to Prensa Libre.
A judge will hear evidence in the case on March 1.
According to prosecutors, the killing was ordered by local Zetas boss Jairo Orellana Morales, alias "El Pelon" -- who was the target of an assassination attempt in Guatemala City in November -- and Mexican Mauricio Guizar Cardenas, alias "El Amarillo," who was captured in Mexico in July.
InSight Crime Analysis
The fact that high-ranking members of the Zetas are being brought to trial is an achievement for the Guatemalan justice system, especially given the intimidatory tactics employed by the group. Days after the massacre, the mutilated body of a prosecutor who had been involved in the seizure of a 500-kilo cocaine shipment from the Zetas, Allan Stowlinsky Vidaurre, was found in five separate bags left around the city of Coban. A note left near his remains was signed "Z-200."
Some of the defendants have already been convicted for killing three members of Salguero's family, including Guatemalan Zetas commander Hugo Alvaro Gomez Vasquez, alias "Comandante Bruja." Stowlinsky had been involved in building the case against Comandante Bruja.
The Zetas have increasingly used Guatemala as a primary area of operation since their arrival in the country in 2007, employing their brutality and expansionist tactics in an attempt to take control of all major trafficking routes.