San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemalan mayoral candidate arrested on double murder charges

GUATEMALA CITY – Aspiring mayoral candidate, Luis Fernando Marroquín, was arrested Tuesday for allegedly assassinating two rival candidates and staging an attempt on his own life to disguise his involvement in their deaths.

As the presidential elections loom in September, electoral violence between parties has become routine, and the Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has already tallied 30 politically motivated violent attacks this year. In stride with this trend, the most recent attack happened in the municipality of San José Pinula, 25 km east of Guatemala City, when two mayoral candidates were killed and a third, Marroquín, shot at last month.

It’s normally easy to get away with murder in Guatemala – only 2 percent of crimes are prosecuted. But the Marroquín investigation appears to be an exception, as it was conducted through an unlikely collaboration between national and international bodies, including the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), United Nations crime-fighting initiative. That investigation found that Marroquín had orchestrated the violent attacks, including a failed attempt on his own life.

Suspicions surfaced after Marroquín drove to El Salvador after the attack, and then returned to Guatemala days later without passing through immigration. Further suspicion was raised after forensic experts analyzed evidence from the alleged shooting Marroquín had survived. Ballistics matched all three shootings to a single gun.

The mayoral hopeful said he’d been fired at repeatedly as he sat in the passenger seat of a car, but had been saved by his bulletproof vest. Yet ballistics evidence showed this to be impossible. “No one sitting [in that car] would have survived such an attack,” said Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz.

Marroquín, who had been leading an aggressive campaign representing the Renewed Democratic Freedom Party, was arrested earlier this week along with his bodyguard and brother-in-law. The three were charged with murder, illicit association and falsifying a crime.

Officials hope that in the weeks leading up to elections, the arrests will help curb an alarming political death toll. Interior Minister Carlos Menocal said, “We think this is a good blow to impunity.”

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