A banner that appeared Tuesday in front of a school in the northern Guatemalan province of Petén threatens attacks on civilians if authorities in the Central American nation continue to pursue members of the Mexico-based Los Zetas drug cartel.

"To all civil and military authorities and the population in general stop persecution of the race or we will start killing. We will toss grenades into discos and shopping centers in Petén ... because this is 'Z' territory we don't want a war against the government this is a warning. Z200," the message said.

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The appearance of the banner was the work of "groups that want to destabilize," Petén Gov. Henry Amezquita said, suggesting the threat was "a reprisal" for Monday's arrest in Petén of a reputed Zetas boss, Guatemalan citizen Gustavo Colindres.

Eight days ago, Zetas hung bedsheets over heavily traveled boulevards in Guatemala City bearing messages of support for President Otto Pérez Molina's proposal to legalize drugs.

The messages - signed by Zeta 200, the supposed boss of the Mexican cartel's cell in Guatemala - also called for a crackdown on youth gangs, which are known as "maras" and blamed by officials for much of the crime in this Central American country.

"Pérez and (Vice President Roxana) Baldetti, go through with legalizing drugs, and we support fighting the maras ... Zeta 200" and "A thousand thanks general Otto Pérez and Roxana Baldetti for legalizing drugs ... Zeta 200," the messages left on pedestrian bridges in southwestern and central Guatemala City said.

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Pérez Molina, who has been promoting international debate on drug legalization as a strategy for fighting drug traffickers, dismissed the messages as unimportant and attributed them to unnamed political opponents.

Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.

After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.

Guatemalan authorities acknowledge that the Zetas have a large presence in the country and the group is blamed for the massacre of 27 peasants last May at a ranch in Petén province, which borders Mexico and Belize.

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