Mexican drug cartels clash in bloody Zacatecas prison riots

02/01/2020
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14:07
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Newsroom & Agencies
Mexican drug cartels clash in bloody Zacatecas prison riots
This is one of the worst outbreaks of violence in Mexico’s penal system during the current administration – Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Mexican drug cartels clash in bloody Zacatecas prison riots

02/01/2020
14:07
Newsroom & Agencies
Mexico City
Julia Love, Abraham González, Diego Ore, Andrea Ricci & Matthew Lewis/REUTERS & Irma Mejía/EL UNIVERSAL
-A +A
The Cieneguillas prison holds members of five criminal groups, including the Gulf Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and the Sinaloa Cartel

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16 inmates were killed and five wounded in a prison fight in the northern Mexican state of Zacatecas, authorities said, in one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the country’s penal system since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took power.

The fight broke out Tuesday afternoon at the Regional Center for Social Reintegration in the town of Cieneguillas, located on the western flank of state capital Zacatecas, the state government said.

Local media reported that the dispute was triggered by a soccer game.

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In a press conference Wednesday evening, state Public Security Minister Ismael Camberos said all prison staff working during the fight and on the previous shift would be investigated.

Camberos did not comment on the cause of the riot but said the situation in the prison was under control.

After the fight, one inmate was arrested with a firearm, and three more guns were found in the prison, as well as various knives. Further searches will be conducted at the prison to rule out the presence of additional weapons, Camberos said.

In an interview with a Mexican radio program earlier on Wednesday, Camberos said officials believe the guns may have been brought in during visiting hours on New Year’s Eve, as a search of the prison over the weekend found no such weapons.

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“We are waiting for the results of the investigation - this includes the director, senior managers, and commanders - to determine if we are going to remove staff,” he said.

The prison holds members of five criminal groups, including the Gulf Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and the Sinaloa Cartel, Camberos said. 120 inmates were relocated after the fight in an attempt to prevent further violence, he added.

The government has launched an investigation to determine those responsible for the incident and how the weapons entered the prison.

The five wounded inmates are in stable condition, Camberos said in the interview.

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On Wednesday afternoon, the Public Security Minister published the names of the inmates who were killed during the riot: Gustavo Adolfo López Flores, Cruz Angel Soto Domínguez, Tomás Franco Estrada, Martín Macías Santa Cruz, Jaime Alberto Dueñas Arias, Rodrigo Chairez Mercado, Roberto Casimiro Terán, David Francisco Mireles Reyes, Ernesto Zapata Macías, Gerardo Sánchez Jaime, Mateo Dorantes Durán, Eduardo Adame Gómez, Jesús Alejandro Díaz López, Luis Aguilar Piña, José, Pedro Pérez Padilla, and Moisés Jara Najar.

Camberos noted that the Cieneguillas prison was built some three decades ago when Mexico faced a different security landscape.

“We are investing and we are trying to modernize this prison,” he said.

The incident marks the latest blow to the security track record of López Obrador, who took power in December 2018 pledging to reduce record levels of violence. Instead, Mexico was in 2019 on track to surpass the previous year’s total number of homicides, according to the latest data.

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Mexican prisons have long been plagued by violence. In 2017, at least 28 inmates were killed when a brutal fight broke out in a prison in the resort town of Acapulco.

Though he did not mention the prison fight specifically, Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo cited the need to improve the nation’s penal system in a series of tweets detailing his security plans on Wednesday.

“We will continue promoting the reorganization of the prisons to fight the crime that is organized from there,” he wrote.

After the riot in the Cieneguillas prison, the state government informed that they have strengthened the security measures inside and outside the penitentiary facility.

In a statement, they also confirmed that the Local Coordination Group (GLC) determined to strengthen all security in the other prisons in Zacatecas.

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For its part, the Spokesperson of Public Security in Zacatecas informed that the corresponding investigations were being carried out on Wednesday inside the prison.

Nevertheless, on Thursday morning, there was a second riot in the Cieneguillas prison that left one inmate killed.

The Spokesperson of Public Security informed that Ismael Camberos is personally addressing the issue inside the prison.

It also mentioned that they are in permanent contact with the GCL headed by governor Alejandro Tello with the objective of controlling and keeping the order inside the penitentiary facility.

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As a safety measure in this operation, security officials have blocked the access from the road to the Cienieguillas community, which leads to the prison.

For his part, the Public Security Minister has said the riot that took place on December 31 was between members of the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels.

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