Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Plane intercepted carrying ton of cocaine

                  GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Police in eastern Guatemala intercepted a
                  small plane carrying almost a ton of cocaine, a top government official
                  said Tuesday.

                  Drugs agents forced the dual-engine Superking to land south of Lake Izabal, 125
                  miles northeast from Guatemala City, the capital. Then found 1,807 pounds of drugs
                  hidden inside the aircraft, Interior Minister Adolfo Reyes said at a news conference.

                  No arrests were made after a suspect believed to have been the plane's pilot
                  escaped on a four-wheel-drive motorcycle, Reyes said.

                  On March 19, authorities forced another small plane to land in the same region.
                  Authorities seized one ton of cocaine from that aircraft as well.

                  Guatemala is trying to regain the confidence of the U.S. government, which in
                  January stripped this country of its anti-drug certification. The White House said
                  President Alfonso Portillo's government wasn't doing enough to combat drug

                  Speaking during a conference in Washington on Tuesday, State Department Under
                  Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Curtis Struble praised Guatemala's recent
                  drug seizures.

                  "If things keep going the way they have until now, I have no doubt that Guatemala will
                  qualify for total certification" soon, Struble said.

                  Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.