Eleven Guatemalan police officers have been arrested for trying to kidnap two civilians off the street, in what officials say is a relatively common type of scheme for officers to be involved in.
The officers were arrested following an investigation by the Public Ministry into reports by alleged kidnap victims. Guatemalan Byron Eduardo Lopez Moreno and Mexican national Francisco Bravo Navarro told authorities they were negotiating the sale of a car outside a casino in Guatemala City in May when they were detained by police officers, Prensa Libre reported.
The police handcuffed both men, but Bravo managed to escape, while Lopez was forced into the police vehicle, they said. Accomplices dressed in civilian clothes, and with their faces covered, drove the car around the city, while police hit Lopez and demanded 500,000 quetzales (around $65,000) from him, according to his statements.
Lopez said that the police released him after a friend of the two men delivered Bravo’s handcuffs back to the station, as the officers were concerned that the escaped man would use the cuffs as evidence to report them. They took Lopez to La Villa police station and forced him to sign a document that he was not allowed to read, according to the report.
Eleven policemen were arrested on kidnapping charges in relation to this incident.
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According to the same report, Public Ministry prosecutors say this kind of scheme, in which police officers work with civilian accomplices to identify and abduct victims, is common.
This suggests reason for skepticism over news that kidnapping reports fell by 42 percent in Guatemala in the last three years. If police are carrying out kidnapping themselves, this would force down the number of crimes that are reported to the police.
However, the authorities’ strong response to this case is a positive sign. Investigators apparently found the officers involved by comparing the victims’ statements with global positioning system (GPS) records to retrace the paths of police vehicles. This follows other recent arrests of police officers suspected of criminal activity, like a group of alleged meth precursor traffickers, and the former head of the national police, who allegedly presided over extrajudicial killings.