February 20, 2012 – Gangs Blamed as Riot Kills Dozens at Prison in Mexico: A riot in a northern Mexican prison left 44 people dead Sunday, providing yet another sign of the violence and crowding overwhelming Latin American prisons just days after a fire at a penitentiary in Honduras killed more than 350 people. The Nuevo León state police tried to keep back relatives of inmates at a prison in Apodaca, Mexico, after a deadly riot on Sunday (picture above).
The authorities in Mexico’s Nuevo León State said a confrontation between inmates in two cellblocks broke out around 2:00AM Sunday and lasted a few hours before the state and federal police could bring the prison, in Apodaca, under control.
Jorge Domene, a spokesman for the state government, said it appeared that members of Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, two of Mexico’s most powerful criminal groups, started the fight as part of a power struggle, using sharp objects, stones and clubs. He said firearms were not used.
The riot was the deadliest in a recent series of prison riots, including those in which 31 people died last month in Tamaulipas State and 20 were killed there in October. In Durango State, 23 people were killed in 2010.
Deadly rioting is commonplace in Mexican and Central American prisons as a drug war rages among criminal groups and government forces, filling prisons and jails well beyond their capacity. Local news reports said that the prison in Apodaca held 3,000 inmates but was built for 1,500.
Harsh overcrowding played a role in the fire last week that killed 359 people at a prison in central Honduras; it was one of the deadliest prison fires anywhere in decades. Officials were investigating the cause, including the possibility that an inmate had set fire to a mattress.
That prison held more than 850 inmates, twice its capacity. As in Mexico, many prisoners were being held on drug charges in a country overrun by drug-trafficking gangs shipping cocaine to the United States and beyond.
Supervisors at the prison in Mexico were being held as part of the investigation, which Mr. Domene said would also determine whether guards took part.
In other prisons, inmates have been known to bribe guards for parties, drugs, prostitutes, cellphones, TVs, even their freedom. (Credits: Photo – Miguel Sierra/European Pressphoto Agency, Narrative – The New York Times, Map – Mapquest.com)
The Master of Disaster