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Latin America

Prison uprising in northern Mexico leaves 49 dead

Twelve others injured, five of them seriously, according to Nuevo León state governor

Jan Martínez Ahrens
Family members of inmates stand outside Topo Chico prison following the riot.
Family members of inmates stand outside Topo Chico prison following the riot.
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52 presos muertos en un motín en una cárcel al norte de México

Forty-nine people have been killed in a violent prison riot that broke out before dawn at a Mexican state penitentiary in Monterrey on Thursday.

Among the dead at the Topo Chico prison are inmates and guards, according to news reports. Twelve others have also been injured, five of them seriously, according to Nuevo León state governor, Jaime Rodríguez, aka “El Bronco.”

Mexican media reported that the riot was linked to an escape attempt by a leader of the notorious Zetas drug cartel.

First reports claimed that a group of inmates in one section of the prison began rioting and tried to help a group of Zeta members flee from Topo Chico. After the guards lost control of the situation, the Mexican army was called in at around 1.30am.

After the guards lost control of the situation, the Mexican army was called in at around 1.30am

The government of Nuevo León state, which runs the penitentiary, said on its Twitter account that the army had taken control of the complex. But so far no official has provided details of exactly what occurred.

The uprising comes a day ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to Mexico. Next Wednesday, the pontiff is scheduled to pay a visit to another state prison in Ciudad Juárez and officially release 50 inmates.

Prison riots have become more frequent in Mexico’s overcrowded penitentiaries. The most recent occurred at La Pila jail in San Luis Potosí where 13 people died.

An estimated 250,000 inmates are housed in Mexico’s prisons, which have come under fire by international rights groups for their overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. At the same time, many complexes are controlled by gangs that provide drugs, sell food and lend money to inmates who often suffer violence if they do not pay off the loans.

An estimated 250,000 inmates are housed in Mexico’s prisons, which have come under fire by international rights groups for their overcrowded and unsanitary conditions

Last year, the daring escape of Sinaloa drug lord Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán from a maximum security prison shed light on the lax surveillance, corruption and other problems that plague the Mexican penitentiary system.

Embarrassed by El Chapo’s escape through a tunnel dug under his cell, President Enrique Peña Nieto ordered the arrests of dozens of prison officials, including the warden of the penitentiary where the drug lord was held, and promised drastic reforms in the system.

El Chapo was recaptured on January 8 and is being held at the same complex under heavy guard.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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