Woman decapitated as Guatemalan gangs hit back after extortion crackdown

The brutal killing of a young woman in Guatemala City has been linked to criminal gangs seeking to warn the government against curbing illegal transport rackets, according to the authorities in the central American country.

The victim's head was discovered inside a phone booth in the notorious Zone 18 area of the Guatemalan capital's Colombia district over the weekend, less than a week after President Alvaro Colom unveiled extensions to the new Transurbano bus network in the same neighbourhood.

The grim discovery revealed evidence of prolonged torture, according to Guatemalan police who believe the woman was aged between 18 and 20. According to the Spero news website, authorities found the rest of the victim's remains separately, accompanied by a note which read: "The truth is that if Transurbano does not co-operate, this is what is going to happen to the owners and partners; I have a lot of information and I know where they live."

For more than a decade, gangs have preyed on Guatemala's only public transport system, creating a lucrative extortion racket by demanding protection "tax" from the owners, drivers and passengers of buses travelling through gang-controlled neighbourhoods. If the "tax" is not paid, the consequences are often bloody. More than 600 bus drivers have been killed in disputes with gang members since 2006, with 93 drivers slain in the first six months of last year alone.

In an attempt to increase safety levels, the government introduced Transurbano buses on a handful of trial routes in July last year. Featuring surveillance cameras, GPS devices and panic buttons, the buses are also manned by two armed guards. But it is the fact that passengers can only board using prepaid fare cards – not cash – which has hit gangs the hardest.

So far, the Transurbano system appears to have been a success. More than 460,000 city residents signed up for prepaid cards before trials started last year, and only three minor incidents have been reported on the routes since they were first introduced, according to Guatemala's Interior Minister, Carlos Menocal, in a statement last week.

However, as the success prompted the government to extend Transurbano lines across Guatemala City, it may also trigger violence aimed at halting this extension. In addition to the young woman's murder, a drive-by shooting targeting the offices of the private security firm which provides bus guards also resulted in three deaths last week.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test