Then if his wife and father went to pay the Q400k ransom, they must have been killed because they did not have enough money to cover the entire payment, right? However, the police also believe that Salguero was being extorted for both money and drugs. Maybe he only paid the money and not the drugs? That would have infuriated the Zetas and led to their attack upon the ranch. The ransom only amounts to $52,000. Given the amount of money involved in the drug trade, I guess I don't see such an escalation of violence coming out of such a small amount. It's likely that the murders involved more than a $52,000 ransom gone bad and involved drugs or Salguero's land.That's what I wrote yesterday. Well, it turns out that I am mostly correct. There's more to the story than meets the eye. There are now two explanations for the killings.
First, according to a report in today's El Periodico, Salguero Morales had problems with a drug trafficking organization from Izabal. According to an unnamed rancher in the Peten, Salguero Morales refused to sell his land to the traffickers. The Zetas went looking for him and when they could not find him they massacred 27 workers on his ranch.
Second, according to a report in the Guatemalan daily, Prensa Libre, Otto Rene Salguero Morales, the owner of Los Cocos where the remains of twenty-seven victims were found over the weekend, stole more than 2,000 kilos of cocaine from this group of Zetas in April. In early May, the Zetas went looking for him. They wanted him to hand over the drugs, the money, and his land.
When they couldn't find Salguero Morales, they kidnapped his nephew. He then sent the nephew's wife and father to pay the ransom. It's possible then that the three relatives were killed because Salguero Morales agreed to pay the ransom (from all accounts that's what was happening when the two were killed), but he refused to return the drugs and hands over his land. We don't know if that's the case, but it sounds like a much more plausible motive for the massacre at the ranch than a failed $52,000 extortion.
Salguero Morales does not look like an ordinary farmer who happened to be extorted by the Zetas. According to authorities, his land in the Peten was not suitable for what he allegedly grew (zacate) and while he has been describe as a cattle rancher with several hundred cattle (doesn't sound like much to me, but I'm a city guy), there were no cows on his ranch. The stalls were empty and they did not appear to have been used in some time.
Investigators claim that Salguero Morales is involved in a Izabal-based drug trafficking organization and the cocaine that he intercepted was on its way to Mexico and then, presumably, north to the United States. He owns four properties - one a short distance from the Honduran border and a second (Los Cocos) a short distance from the Mexican border.
Yesterday, I also said that we shouldn't try to point to this one massacre as evidence of Guatemala becoming a narco-state or a failed state. I also don't know which of these two stories are true if either of them are. We all remember too well what happened after Rodrigo Rosenberg was murdered. A video tape emerged posthumously in which Rosenberg accused President Alvaro Colom and other government officials of causing his death. It turned out that Rosenberg had concocted an elaborate suicide. There's also the story of Bishop Juan Gerardi. Following his murder in 1998, all sorts of rumors were flying around. At one point, a German Shepherd was arrested.
There are likely to be several more twists and turns especially as investigators look more closely at twenty former army officials allegedly involved in the Zetas and connections between Salguero Morales and current and former elected officials.