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Top Guatemala police officials arrested on drug charges

[JURIST] Guatemalan authorities have arrested two high-ranking police officials leading the country's war on drugs on charges of corruption and drug trafficking, Guatemalan Attorney General Amilcar Velasquez [official website, in Spanish] announced [audio, in Spanish] Tuesday. Police Chief Baltazar Gonzalez and anti-narcotics official Nelly Bonilla were arrested Tuesday in connection with a drug-related shoot-out [AP report] last year between drug traffickers and a gang of police accused of stealing large quantities of cocaine for profit. An 11-month investigation by the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) [official website, in Spanish] in collaboration with the prosecutor's office led to the arrests only a few days before US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton [official website] will visit the country to discuss the country's ongoing efforts to combat the drug trade [CNN report].

On Monday, the US State Department [official website] released its 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which highlighted Guatemala as a key player in the Latin American drug trade [text, PDF]. One of the biggest problems in the country is the corruption among high-ranking officials. Previous police chief Porfirio Perez was arrested on similar drug charges [AP report] last year. In January, Guatemalan authorities issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for former president Alfonso Portillo [CIDOB profile, in Spanish], after the US government requested his extradition to face charges of money laundering. Portillo was extradited [JURIST report] in 2008 from Mexico to Guatemala, where he is accused of authorizing transfers of $15.8 million from the budget of the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense during his presidency from 2000 to 2004.

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