September 5, 2019 / 1:33 AM / 3 months ago

Guatemala declares state of siege after suspected drug dealers kill soldiers

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales holds a news conference to declare a state of siege in five northeastern provinces in an effort to regain control after three soldiers were killed by suspected drug traffickers, in Guatemala City, Guatemala September 4, 2019. Guatemalan Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala’s government on Wednesday declared a state of siege in five northeastern provinces in an effort to regain control after three soldiers were killed by suspected drug traffickers, authorities said.

Authorities will send more military and police personnel to Alta Verapaz, El Progreso, Izabal, Peten and Zacapa provinces, a drug-trafficking corridor that runs from the Honduran to Mexican borders. The measure will impose a curfew, prohibit demonstrations and make it easier for the armed forces to detain people. It must be approved by Congress.

“These criminal groups operate throughout the region,” Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales told a news conference.

The Guatemalan Army said a group of suspected drug traffickers on Tuesday “ambushed” a patrol of nine soldiers who were sent to detain an aircraft allegedly transporting drugs.

Guatemala, like neighbouring El Salvador and Honduras, is a transit route for much of the cocaine that flows into the United States. Candidates running for public office in recent elections have been accused of links to the drug trafficking underworld.

The United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, which permanently closed its doors there on Tuesday, helped shed light on links between local politicians and organised crime and drug trafficking.

The CICIG, as the group is known, is widely viewed as one of the most successful anti-corruption bodies in Latin American history. It helped topple a president in 2015 and drew the ire of Morales after accusing him of breaking campaign finance laws. Morales let CICIG’s mandate expire.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Cynthia Ostermanand Leslie Adler

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