After an extensive investigation across Guatemala, 43 of the 60 gang members arrested will be charged with extortion among other crimes, the public ministry said Wednesday.
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Since July, a team of 720 police conducted 81 raids in 14 of the nation’s 22 departments to dismantle the large-scale criminal ring, public ministry spokeswoman Julia Barrera said. Among the detainees arrested were 40 women and four adolescents.
"Our investigators documented in video and photography the movements of these extortionists, established where they live and their activities," said police spokesperson Pablo Castillo, who added that six lives were spared thanks to the investigation.
The group was found to be behind a series of violent crimes including at least 22 instances of conspiracy, extortion and at least seven murders. Other offenses include drug and firearms distribution, forgery, as well as operating training facilities for criminal activities.
Police said the opening of training camps was a recent development in the organization that was being explored by gang leaders to increase production and improve results.
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The majority of arrests took place in Colonia La Florida, San Pedro Ayampuc, Mixco, Quetzaltenango, El Progreso, Escuintla, Retalhuleu, Quiche, and Palencia, the ministry reported.
Victims testified, saying they were forced to take cell phones to communicate with gang members, then be harassed and threatened with firearms until a payment was made. Investigators reported a total of US$74,659 was collected by the group.
In Guatemala, close to 6,000 people are killed annually with an average of 32 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants with nearly 3,000 registered as drug-related crimes.