Initial reports of a massacre in Peten began to filter out of Guatemala on Sunday. Here's what we think that we know as far as I can tell.
The massacre started late Saturday when approximately 30-50 men (sometimes reported as 200) travelling in twelve trucks attacked the small town of Caserio La Bomba about 275 miles north of the capital in the department of Peten.
There were twenty-seven (probably) or twenty-nine victims at the massacre site, Los Cocos. Two of the victims were women and two were children. Another report says three teenagers were among the victims. The victims were bound and then beheaded.
A 23-year old, Luis Armando Garcia, survived the attack by pretending that he was dead after he was stabbed. A pregnant woman was apparently released when her children began to cry. It's not clear what happened to her children. Another story said that one of the workers was spared and told to look after the children. None of the victims appear to have had ties to the cartels.
The killers did not identify themselves, but they did say that they were looking for the owner of the ranch, Otto Salguero. When the workers said that they did not know where he was, the assailants began to kill them one by one. The group's leader was called "Kaibil" which leads one to believe that he might have been a member of Guatemala's elite/criminal/murderous special forces.
The killers left a note for Salguero written in blood using one of the victim's legs. Guatemalan authorities are now looking for Salguero. He owns four ranches and hundreds of cattle. While authorities believe that Salguero is connected to drug trafficking, the people around Los Cocos say that he is just a rancher. The killers also said that they would be back.
Police believe the massacre was committed by the "Z-200," a group of Zetas. They think that the killing might be related to a land dispute or an act of revenge against Salguero. Threats against Salguero apparently began in early May because of "bad business."
When his wife (Eunice ppeared last Friday night [May 13] between La Libertad and Sayaxché, Petén. At the site of the bodies was found a note that read: "Otto Salguero I am coming for your head, Z 200."
At the time, Otto Salguero was apparently in Zacapa to attend his niece's funeral, Eunice Franco Keiry Salguero.
This time the group left another message painted in blood: "How's it going, Otto Salguero, I am going to find you and leave you." The fate of Luis Carlos Bardales Chacón remains unknown.
The violence continued on Monday when police killed two men and took a third into custody following a confrontation in the area. Grenades were also tossed at a home and a business where the bodies were being processed.
Colom has been reluctant to declare another state of siege after last year's siege in Alta Verapaz,, but he did say on Monday that he will declare one if attacks continue in Peten. However, that's not going to be easy. Peten is the largest department in Guatemala, comprising approximately one-third of the national territory. It borders both Mexico and Belize. It is larger than the countries of El Salvador and Belize.
Two more points:
Several news stories keep identifying the Peten as one of the most dangerous departments in the country. However, according to statistics provided by Carlos A. Mendoza
Most the time time, we write that 200-250,000 Guatemalans were killed and/or disappeared during the 36-year conflict (1960-1996). For example, the Commission for Historical Clarification writes
Combining this data with the results of other studies of political violence in Guatemala, the CEH estimates that the number of persons killed or disappeared as a result of the fratricidal confrontation reached a total of over 200,000.You need to separate the 75,000 or so murders since the end of the war from those that occurred before its resolution.