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Gangsters in Guatemala make crew signs while in handcuffs as they are shaken down by prison guards

Guatemalan gang members yesterday released three prison guards who had been taken hostage in a jail in the capital, the government said. 

Images released yesterday show the defiant Mara 18 gang members, some making gang signs, being handcuffed during an inspection after the hostage situation at the Centro Preventivo de Hombres (CPH) prison in Guatemala City.  

Prison system spokesman Carlos Morales told local media that four guards from the prison were detained by gang members from Mara 18, who have a wing in the jail. 

‘In sector 11 of the centre, prisoners detained four guards and our agents […] began a dialogue to rescue those detained,’ he said.

A member of Mara 18 gang gestures during an inspection at Centro Preventivo de Hombres prison, after the release of three guards of the penitentiary system (SP) in Guatemala City yesterday

A member of Mara 18 gang gestures during an inspection at Centro Preventivo de Hombres prison, after the release of three guards of the penitentiary system (SP) in Guatemala City yesterday

A Mara 18 gangster makes a gang sign during an inspection in a Guatemala City prison yesterday

A Mara 18 gangster makes a gang sign during an inspection in a Guatemala City prison yesterday 

A member of 'Mara 18' gang makes a crew sign during an inspection at a Guatemala City prison after three prison guards were released by prisoners yesterday

A member of ‘Mara 18’ gang makes a crew sign during an inspection at a Guatemala City prison after three prison guards were released by prisoners yesterday 

Handcuffed Mara 18 gang members make crew signs during an inspection of their prison wing yesterday, after they released three prison guards who were taken hostage on Thursday night

Handcuffed Mara 18 gang members make crew signs during an inspection of their prison wing yesterday, after they released three prison guards who were taken hostage on Thursday night

One of the guards was released before yesterday, according to AfP.  

Three days earlier, Mara 18 gang members at another prison, took ten guards hostage and released them early Tuesday after hours of negotiations with police.  

The initial kidnap on Monday came hours after authorities transferred some 40 leaders of Mara 18 from the CPH to prisons across the country.  

Morales has confirmed the move is to ensure the gang leaders are unable to extort people on the outside as they have been located to facilities where they do not have telephone access.  

Handcuffed Mara 18 gang members make crew signs during an inspection of their prison wing yesterday. The kidnaps came days after the prison system moved 40 leaders of the infamous gang across country so they couldn't have telephone access

Handcuffed Mara 18 gang members make crew signs during an inspection of their prison wing yesterday. The kidnaps came days after the prison system moved 40 leaders of the infamous gang across country so they couldn’t have telephone access 

Police stand guard next to Mara 18 gang members at a prison in Guatemala City yesterday

Police stand guard next to Mara 18 gang members at a prison in Guatemala City yesterday

Police carry out an inspection at the 'Mara 18' gang wing in Guatemala City yesterday

Police carry out an inspection at the ‘Mara 18’ gang wing in Guatemala City yesterday 

Dozens of police officers can be seen while carrying out an inspection of the Mara 18 gang wing in a Guatemala City prison yesterday

Dozens of police officers can be seen while carrying out an inspection of the Mara 18 gang wing in a Guatemala City prison yesterday 

According to Morales, the gang members collected extortion money from shopkeepers and taxi drivers, among others, while locked up.

The country’s president, Alejandro Giammattei, issued a statement on Monday, claiming authorities would refuse to back down on the plan to split up ‘the leaders responsible for murders and violence.’ 

Official data shows that drug trafficking, the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs, – who run extortion and contract killings in the country – cause almost half of the 3,500 violent deaths that occur each year in Guatemala.

Giammattei, in his inauguration speech last January, proposed to promote the classification of gangs as terrorist groups, but has not yet finalised the proposal.

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