5th man held in attack on St. Mary's students Bus driver recognizes photo of one of suspects

January 22, 1998|By Ruth Gidley | Ruth Gidley,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala -- Police have picked up a fifth suspect in the attack on a St. Mary's College tour bus that was forced off a rural road last Friday, its passengers robbed and five female students raped, some local newspapers reported yesterday.

But the U.S. Embassy yesterday could not confirm the arrest of Julio Antonio Barrientos Godinez.

After high profile crimes here, series of arrests are common -- with police often rounding up criminals to show they are acting swiftly but later releasing them.

The driver of the students' bus, Victor Anibal Lopez Rodas, told reporters that he recognized the photograph of one of the four suspects picked up earlier, Reyes Guch Ventura, nicknamed El Indio, or "the Indian."

The bus driver said he is not sure he can identify the four other suspects captured by police. In all, police are seeking seven men.

National Police Director Angel Conte told journalists that Lopez Rodas will receive "necessary protection" as the only witness in the country that can help with the investigation.

Some daily newspapers have questioned whether the students were actually raped. One paper claimed they looked too calm when they were waiting to be examined at a local hospital after the attack. Another paper expressed doubts because the women refused to be examined without a U.S. Embassy official present.

But public expressions of outrage over the attack have spread from right-wing citizen organizations, which have called for tougher government measures to control violence, to left-wing groups and religious organizations. Congressional deputies from left- and right-wing parties have condemned the act, blaming the government for inadequate measures.

In an earlier case, five foreigners, including two U.S. citizens, were raped when their bus was held up in an attack in July. All the passengers, including 20 foreigners, also were robbed at gunpoint.

The site of that attack, near Tecun Uman, on the border with Mexico, had been the scene of several earlier incidents.

Enrique Diaz, director of the Spanish language school ICA, who helped the victims of the July attack report it to the police, said that a suspect, Colomba Costa Cuca, was arrested near the site of that attack. He remains in prison awaiting trial, Diaz said.

Diaz said reports of the attacks have yet to hurt attendance at his language school for foreigners.

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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