MONTERREY, Mexico – At least 44 inmates were killed in a Mexican prison riot on Feb. 19, just days after a deadly inferno in a jail in Honduras, again highlighting terrible overcrowding in Latin American prisons.
The deaths in Mexico occurred as clashes broke out in the early hours between rival gangs at Apodaca prison, near Monterrey, which was holding some 3,000 inmates despite an official capacity of 1,500.
Notorious for violence and overcrowding, prisons in the region are beset by a litany of problems such as rampant drug trafficking and gang members seeking to settle scores.
The prison population in Mexico and Central America has swollen in line with the region’s increasingly important role in the cocaine trafficking trade, meaning outdated facilities are straining at the seams.
Families gathered on Feb. 19 outside the prison, awaiting news of loved ones in a desperate scene, with some women fainting.
Nuevo León state public security spokesman Jorge Domene said the fight likely was part of a turf war between the brutal Zetas drug gang and their former employers, the Gulf cartel, for control of the prison.
Monterrey, an industrial hub and Mexico’s third-largest city, has seen an upsurge in violence in recent months blamed on fighting between the two groups.
[AFP (Mexico), 19/02/2012; La Vanguardia (Mexico), 19/02/2012]