Guatemala Declares State of Siege After Suspected Drug Traffickers Ambush and Murder Three Soldiers

In this photo released by Guatemala’s Presidential Press Office, soldiers patrol in Coban, Guatemala, Sunday Dec. 19, 2010. The Guatemalan military declared Sunday a state of siege for 30 days in the northern Alta Verapaz province to reclaim cities that have been overtaken by Mexican drug traffickers, according to authorities. A state of siege allows the army to detain suspects without warrants, conduct warrantless searches, prohibit gun possession and public gatherings, and control the local news media. (AP Photo/Guatemala Presidential Press Office) (AP2010)

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 Honduras to Mexico borders. The measure will impose a curfew, prohibit demonstrations and make it easier for the armed forces to detain people. Congress must approve the measure.

“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 “ambushed” a patrol of nine soldiers on Tuesday who were sent to detain an aircraft allegedly transporting drugs.

Guatemala, like neighboring El Salvador and Honduras, is a hub for the trafficking of drugs from South America to the United States.

SOURCE: Reuters