Guatemala arrests alleged gang member as suspect in slaying of journalist over extortion

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GUATEMALA CITY — An alleged gang member suspected of ordering the recent killing of a young journalist has been arrested, President Otto Perez Molina said Friday.

Prosecutors said a wiretap captured suspect Antonio Televario Navichoc saying he ordered the slaying of Guido Villatoro, a reporter and cameraman for the local channel Servicable in the southwestern department of Suchitepequez.

Villatoro, 20, was gunned down March 13 as he entered the office where he worked. Investigators believe he was killed because his employer refused to make an extortion payment.

Perez Molina called Navichoc "the intellectual author of this murder."

Authorities described Navichoc as one of two leaders of a Mara 18 street gang cell that runs extortion rackets in the region.

Thirteen other suspected gang members were also arrested along with Navichoc. Authorities linked them to 11 killings in southern Guatemala and the capital, including police officers and bus drivers.

Four days before Villatoro's killing, unidentified gunmen killed two journalists and wounded another in a shooting in Mazatenango, also in the department of Suchitepequez.

Authorities believe that attack was aimed at one of the slain men, Danilo Lopez of the Prensa Libre newspaper, who had said that several mayors were threatening him over articles about corruption.

Central America's gang-ridden northern triangle, which includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, is one of the most violent regions in the world.

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