Sunday, July 08, 2007

Guatemala not making progress on slaying of Salvadoran lawmakers

The masterminds and their motives behind the February slayings of Salvadoran legislators in Guatemala remain largely a mystery. According to a recent Los Angeles Times story, Guatemala's government has shown a lack of will to pursue the investigation and what it might uncover:

GUATEMALA CITY — The investigation into the February killings of three Salvadoran legislators here has stumbled because of obstacles and poor police work, observers say, leaving them to doubt whether authorities will uncover the masterminds of a crime that shook Central America's political establishment.

Eduardo Jose D'Aubuisson, the 32-year-old son of the founder of El Salvador's ruling party, was kidnapped, tortured and killed along with two fellow legislators and their driver while on their way to a meeting of the Central American Parliament, a regional lawmaking body.

Guatemalan officials say the principal suspects are local drug traffickers and mid-level rogue police officers.

But a U.S. official said FBI agents from Los Angeles, sent in response to a request for help by Guatemalan officials, were "appalled" by the conduct of their counterparts here.

And a Central American intelligence official said he believed Guatemalan authorities were deliberately impeding the investigation.

D'Aubuisson, his colleagues William Pichinte and Jose Ramon Gonzalez, and driver Gerardo Ramirez were killed Feb. 19. Four Guatemalan police officers were arrested and charged in the case on Feb. 22. Investigators used a satellite positioning device attached to the officers' patrol car to place them at the scene of the crime.

But the officers were killed Feb. 25 while being held in a maximum-security prison. The dramatic slaying of the chief suspects was widely seen as evidence of a larger conspiracy.

Guatemalan investigators "simply and intentionally refused to pass on information to the FBI," said the Central American intelligence official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

"Based on our analysis, an investigation into the killings would reveal the high level of organized crime's involvement in the circles of the [Guatemalan] state," the source said.(more)

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