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Guatemala: Massacre of defenseless farmers leaves nation shaken

By Mayra Beltrán de Daetz

GUATEMALA — The front pages of all the newspapers in Guatemala on May 16, 2011, carried news about the murders of at least 29 farmers. The horrendous crime happened on a farm named Los Cocos, in La Libertad, Petén.

According to investigators from the Public Ministry, everything indicates that they were executed by a cell of the Zetas drug cartel called “Z 200.” This was reported by people who arrived at the property to buy cheese and cream, but instead found bodies watering the yard.


Farmhouse where 27 murdered farmhands were found. Message written in blood can be seen on the walls of the house.

Reports indicate people saw: one complete body, 26 bodies without heads and 23 heads. Among the massacred were two women who died by firearms and all the bodies had their hands tied.

To round out this macabre picture, authorities also found messages written in blood on the walls directed at the owner of the property.

According to the investigators, more than 50 men dressed in military uniforms arrived at the property in the dawn hours transported in 12 agricultural-type vehicles. They rounded up the farmers and demanded to know where was the owner of the property.

When nobody could answer, they assassinated them one by one, scattering the mutilated bodies all over the property.

They left one farm worker alive to take care of the several children who lived there. The survivor was told she couldn’t request aid until they left, even though the nearest town on foot was an hour away.

Immediately upon finding out about the gruesome discovery the Guatemalan government mobilized the army, public prosecutors and police to investigate the case.

Wanting to catch the guilty before they flee back into Mexico, the government has set up aerial and land monitoring, along with, open communications with Mexican authorities.


Guatemala media reports that all the families of the murder victims live in extreme poverty.

Monday afternoon the media was informed of shootings between police and narcotics traffickers, creating fear among the residents who have preferred to take shelter in their homes. There were also reports of a grenade exploding in Santa Elena Petén in front of a school and a restaurant, leaving only structural damages. The attack was so intense that the authorities are waiting on an armored car before pursuing the presumed assassins any further.

The United Nations (UN) has condemned the brutal event, highlighting the fact that it’s the most vulnerable inhabitants of Péten, who have been abandoned by the government, and who are caught in the crossfire of this violence. The UN reconfirmed the urgent necessity to implement a security strategy that guarantees the human rights of the peteneros.

It’s a situation UN officials saw coming when they visited the area in November 2010. At that time, they observed the insecure situation and lack of protection for the communities of La Libertad and San Andres, who are surrounded by drug traffickers, illegal cattle ranches, lie in the midst of a strategic drug-trafficking zone and live under constant threats of being forced off the earth they occupy.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom, who called the killings sadistic and perverse, declared a 30-day state of emergency.

Learn more about Mayra:

Mayra Etna Beltrán Molina de Daetz is a native-born Guatemalan who lives in Guatemala City with her husband and teenage son. After attending one of the most noted secretarial schools in the country, Mayra graduated with a secretarial certification — and the ability to speak and write English, as well as, know French.

Yet, she wanted more of a career and so she took architect and graphic design classes at a local university in Guatemala City. Unable to finish her university studies due to finances, Mayra became a stewardess and has over 100 hours in the air.

Yet, she always wanted to be involved with the media and so she returned to school and was able to get a degree in sales and marketing.


As a result, she has worked for a weekly magazine and a newspaper.

I have had opportunity to attend International congresses, in which I have known very important people at the more important international newspapers, which has been a very gratifying experience and has allowed me to have friendships outside of my country.

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