GUATEMALA CITY – Mexican and Guatemalan drug traffickers arguing about a horse race in a rural border town began a series of gunbattles in which 17 people died, police said Monday.
National police spokesman Donald Gonzalez said the traffickers were drinking in the town of Santa Ana Huista on Sunday afternoon when an argument broke out over bets on a horse race, leading to a pursuit in which the gunmen shot at each other with automatic weapons from trucks racing down roads near a remote part of the Mexican border.
Gonzalez said police even found grenade-launchers at the scene of the final shootout, along with hundreds of bullet cartridges and a truck with license plates from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
The increasing violence of Mexican drug gangs has sometimes spilled across the border into Guatemala, which is often used as part of the corridor to smuggle drugs toward the United States.
Guatemalan police say 11 people died in a clash between drug gangs in March and authorities say the shooting and burning of 15 people on a bus in November also appears to be linked to drug trafficking.
Army spokesman Jorge Ortega said 110 soldiers were sent to the area.