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Top Guatemalan officers arrested

  • Gonzalez, Bonilla, Carrillo accused of heading criminal ring
  • Arrests come days before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to arrive
  • Arrests result from an 11-month investigation, stemmed from shootout last year

Guatemala City, Guatemala (CNN) -- Guatemala's national police chief and the country's top anti-narcotics official have been arrested in connection with the drug trade, Attorney General Amilcar Velasquez announced.

Police Chief Baltazar Gonzalez and anti-drug czar Nelly Bonilla were arrested Tuesday and charged in connection with a shooting last year over some stolen cocaine that left five police officers dead, Velasquez said Wednesday.

The arrests come just days before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to arrive for talks with the Guatemalan government -- talks that are expected to include a discussion of Guatemala's current anti-drug efforts.

A police officer, Fernando Carrillo, also was arrested.

The arrests were the result of an 11-month investigation by the International Commission Against Impunity, or CICIG by its Spanish initials.

The three are accused of heading a criminal network that infiltrated and corrupted the police force, dedicated to robbery and drug trafficking.

The investigation stemmed from the shootout between police and drug traffickers last year. The shootout was the result of an attempt by police officers to rob 750 kilos of cocaine from the traffickers, CICIG found.

Guatemala is at the epicenter of the drug threat.
--U.S. State Department report on narcotics
  • Guatemala

These kinds of robberies were commonplace and were carried out with the blessing of police higher ups, the investigation found.

In addition to heading the ring, Gonzalez, Bonilla and Carrillo are accused of trying to cover up the shooting incident.

The arrests shook the government of President Alvaro Colom, as drug trafficking remains a key issue in his country.

"Guatemala is at the epicenter of the drug threat," according to a U.S. State Department report on narcotics released this week. "Corruption and intimidation of law enforcement continue to be major challenges. Combined with multiple changes in senior positions ... there was no perceptible improvement to institutionally strengthen law enforcement or give law enforcement agencies the capacity to more effectively address the grave narcotics situation in Guatemala."

Journalist Alexia Rios contributed to this report for CNN.