San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Murder of Jailed Cops Sparks Prison Riot

GUATEMALA CITY Inmates at Guatemala s maximum-security El Boqueron prison, where four police officers arrested in connection with last week s killings of three Salvadoran legislators were murdered, ended their riot Monday and released the five hostages they had taken.

They have released the five people they were holding hostage and police have started a search in four sectors of the prison, said a representative of the Human Rights Prosecutor s Office, or PDH, which mediated talks with the inmates.

The hostages were not harmed by the prisoners, according to the PDH official.

Some 300 National Police officers and soldiers wearing riot gear entered the facility 65 kilometers east of the capital and took control of it Monday morning.

Meanwhile, another version of how Guatemala s highest-profile murder-suspect prisoners were killed in their cell arose shortly after first reports said the four federal police officers were killed by a commando unit that assaulted the maximum-security penitentiary.

The second scenario has the four officers, jailed last week on suspicion of murdering three Salvadoran politicians in an allegedly drug-related crime, being killed by inmates of the Boqueron prison in Cuilapa.

The early reports on the slayings had said the commando unit burst into the prison Sunday afternoon, subdued guards and sought out and killed the four officers. As of early Monday, there was no official version of the astounding development in an already murky case that authorities here and in El Salvador say involved drug trafficking.

Victor Soto, top detective of what officials acknowledge is the corruption-rife National Police, told reporters, The four agents were executed inside the prison. But he provided no details.

Some inmates of the facility who were able to speak to people outside, presumably by cell phone, were quoted by media as saying the assailants first cut the men s throats, then riddled them with gunfire.

The killers fled the prison, according to those reports.

Police and soldiers had the prison surrounded on Monday as negotiations to end the hostage standoff continued.

National Police officers, commenting on the condition of anonymity, said the four suspects were killed by inmates. The reason given by the prisoners for rioting and taking hostages is that they feared being blamed for Sunday s murders and consequent reprisals by security forces.

Officials said the rioters were about 180 members of the

Mara Salvatrucha street

gang, a brutal organization blamed for much of Guatemala s extremely high murder rate.

Since 2004, some 250 National Police officers have been prosecuted for their involvement

in drug trafficking, kidnapping for

ransom, extortion, murder and vehicle theft.

Authorities have acknowledged that up to 2,000 others may be involved in criminal activity.

Last Friday, Presidents Oscar Berger of Guatemala and Tony Saca of El Salvador said drug traffickers were behind the Feb. 19 murders of three Salvadoran lawmakers to the Central American Parliament (Parlecen) and their driver.

Berger said the police officers arrested Feb. 22 as suspects in the multiple slayings were waiting for a shipment of drugs or money.

The charred bodies of Eduardo D Aubuisson, William Pichinte and José Ramón González all Salvadoran delegates to Parlacen as well as their driver, Gerardo Napoleon Ramírez, were found in a burned and bullet-riddled SUV on an isolated stretch of the highway between Guatemala City and the El Salvador border.

D Aubuisson was son of former Salvadoran death squad chief and founder of the right-wing ARENA party.

Guatemalan National Police officers Luís Arturo Herrera, José Korki López Arreaga, José Adolfo Gutíerrez and Marvin Langen Escobar were arrested in connection with the crime. They were then slain three days later in jail.

Until his arrest, Herrera was chief of the force s organized-crime section.

The officers were waiting for a haul of drugs or money, but their frustration (at finding nothing in the vehicle) led them to take the stupid, cruel decision to murder them … It is very clear that drug trafficking is at work here, Berger said.

The Guatemalan President said the police officers thought the vehicle they captured was carrying a shipment of drugs or of money, because they had been tipped off.

Saca, for his part, said there was a regrettable confusion about the Salvadoran lawmakers. The Guatemala City daily Prensa Libre reported Feb. 28 that one of the officers taken into custody revealed that they were hired by a group of drug traffickers with ties to Salvadoran gangs.


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