General — 08 May 2012 — by Adele Ramos

Joseph Budna, 31, a Belizean businessman living in Guatemala, told our newspaper today that two men on a motor scooter attempted to extort 15,000 quetzales, about BZ$3,800, from him last Thursday in Quetzaltenango City, Guatemala, claiming that someone had ordered a hit on him, and he had to pay the money to the men to stay alive.

Budna said that the incident happened in a busy and well-populated area in Zone 1. The men, he said, were armed with 45mm and 9mm guns, and they told him to meet them back at the same spot with the cash.

“I don’t have the money,” Budna said he told the men. They then gave him an hour to gather the money. Budna said that instead, he went to the police, who sent two uniformed cops of Policia Nacional Civil (PNC) with him in his tinted Toyota SUV.

When Budna returned with the police to the Central Park area, the men allegedly fired shots and tried to flee the scene. This triggered an extended shootout that ended in Zone 2, with one of the suspects dead, and the other detained by police.

Nuestro Diario and El Quetzalteco both reported on the incident this past Saturday, May 5, 2012.

Nuestro Diario said that police authorities have indicated that this year, 17 such alleged extortionists were captured in that area for the said crime, mostly against businessmen and transport carriers, and 47 more are under investigation.

In this case, Mateo Steve Ceballos Vasquez, 24, was shot dead, supposedly by police, whereas his accomplice, Waldemar Abraham Santiago Linares, 26, was captured and taken into custody.

Police confiscated their weapons, said to have been unlicensed, and took forensic evidence, including the expended shells, from the scene.

Budna (who told us that he earns a living from freelance journalism and renting water jet ski motorbikes
in Flores, Peten, Guatemala) said that this is the first time that he has had such an experience in Guatemala. He said that the police will use him as a witness in the case.

Budna says that police information indicates that Linares can spend several years in jail if found guilty of possession of an unlicensed firearm and attempted murder against the state police officers and him, as well as damage to property.

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