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Guatemalan President: Nation Must Confront Drug Violence

Morgue employees take in the bodies that were found on a ranch in northern Guatemala, at the local morgue in San Benito, Guatemala, May 16, 2011

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has told the nation that Guatemala must stand up to drug-related violence.

He made the remark in a televised address late Monday after visiting the site of a mass murder in Guatemala's Peten province. Officials have blamed the killing of nearly 30 field workers, including two women and at least two children, on the Zetas drug cartel.

Colom said drug-related violence affects not just Guatemala, but the whole region. He announced a state of emergency that gives security forces increased authority.

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The bodies of the victims were found Sunday on a ranch near the Mexican border. Police said most of the victims were decapitated. Authorities have described the incident as one of the country's worst mass killings in a generation.

Officials have said, that of the various Mexican drug gangs operating in Guatemala, the Zetas seem to have made the most inroads. In Mexico, the Zetas have been hit hard by the military and federal police since President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006 and began a crackdown on organized crime groups.

Last year, a U.S. State Department report said entire regions of Guatemala are now essentially under the control of the Zetas.

The Zetas began as a Mexican military unit that defected and began working with the Gulf cartel, based in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from the U.S. city of El Paso, Texas. The Zetas split from the Gulf cartel last year. The two groups are now fierce rivals.