San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemalan Police Chief Reigns in Wake of Killings

GUATEMALA CITY – Julio Hernández, the head of Guatemala’s National Civilian Police (PNC), was forced to resign this week in the wake of the arrests of two officers who allegedly kidnapped and killed five drug suspects, officials said.

Interior Minister Adela Camacho said she asked for the chief ’s resignation, which was submitted Sept. 26 and came a day after the officers’ arrests.

Deputy Director Henry López has been named the interim chief of the police force, the minister said.

Officers Sabino Ramos, 31, and inspector Wilson Tobar, 28, stand accused of kidnapping and killing five men whose corpses were found last week in a wooded area south of the Guatemalan capital.

A PNC spokesman said that the victims – all between the ages of 17 and 25 – belonged to a gang of drug traffickers that operates in the crime-ridden El Gallito neighborhood.

Relatives of the victims told the PNC and the human rights prosecutor’s office that they had been abducted Sept. 21 by a group of police officers.

This is the second such case involving PNC officers to have a big impact on Guatemalan society this year.

In February, three Salvadoran delegates to the Central American Parliament and their driver were shot and killed and their bodies set ablaze in a rural area east of the capital by Guatemalan police officers.

A week later, four PNC officers who had been arrested in connection with the murders were themselves killed inside a maximum-security prison in a possible mob hit designed to prevent them from telling investigators who ordered the brutal slayings.

Hernández took over as director of the PNC for Erwin Sperissen, who resigned following the killing of the Salvadoran legislators and the hit on the officers.

Crime and violence are the biggest problems facing Guatemala, where 2,452 murders were committed in the first eight months of this year, according to a report released earlier this month by the Mutual Support Group human rights organization.

Guatemala is considered one of Latin America’s most violent countries with an average of 14 murders daily.


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