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February 4, 2008

(Further) Background for an Upcoming Research Trip to Guatemala

As noted last week, I will be leaving for a research trip to Guatemala shortly, and will not be updating the Weekly commentary until late February at the earliest.

Until I return, I'm going to follow up briefly on last week's commentary LINK with the following story, which continues the saga of the murder of three Salvadoran dignitaries in Guatemala by police officers linked to organized crime, and the political corruption at the heart of it all. (The story below was published on the Media With Conscience website:

Authorities in Guatemala have ordered the arrest of a congressman accused of conspiring to kill three Salvadorean politicians.

The arrest warrant was issued for Manuel Castillo on Thursday after Carlos Gutierrez, the man suspected of ordering the murders, was detained near the border with El Salvador.

The charred and bullet-ridden bodies of the politicians, all members of the Guatemala-based Central American parliament, and their driver were found on February 19 last year.

Castillo "told us he didn't know [Gutierrez] but we have evidence to the contrary," Alvaro Matus, the prosecutor, said.

On Wednesday, the supreme court stripped Castillo of his immunity from prosecution.

He leaves Congress this month to become mayor of Jutiapa, the town where Gutierrez was arrested in a region police say is dominated by drug smugglers. Neither Castillo, nor his lawyers were available to comment on the arrest warrant.

Gutierrez was arrested on Friday after investigators traced more than 60 telephone calls between him and the suspected killers, Matus told reporters. Shortly after the bodies were found, four Guatemalan policemen were arrested after being tracked to the scene by a satellite positioning system in their car.

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