Fear pervasive after Mexican prison riot that killed 49

MONTERREY, Mexico -- A prison riot that left 49 inmates hacked, beaten or burned to death opened searing questions about gang rule, extortion and human rights violations in Mexico's overcrowded prisons, where people merely awaiting trial are mixed in with some of the world's most hardened killers.

See Full Article

Those questions were not abstract for Victoria Casas Gutierrez, a cleaning lady who had waited for hours Thursday for news of her 21-year-old son, Santiago Garza Casas, who was facing trial for allegedly acting as a lookout for a criminal gang.

Santiago was sent to the Topo Chico prison in September for missing a parole appointment. He was immediately mixed in with a prison population that included murderers.

With their gang ties and access to drugs and guns, many say the Zetas and Gulf cartels run the prison.

"They charge taxes, and if the relatives don't bring a certain amount ... they beat them," Casas Gutierrez said. The amounts charged depend on their crimes, but can be thousands of pesos. "Sometimes we have to sell our homes."

"There is vice inside and everything that is in there is their fault, the authorities," she said.

Casas Gutierrez was lucky; her son was not on the list of about 40 dead released Thursday, but some bodies were so badly burned it may take days to identify them.

It was a Dantesque scene at the gates of the prison, as terrified relatives waited for more names to go up on the list of the dead posted in two letter-sized sheets on a wall.

"Ayyy, my son is on the list!" 63-year-old Maria Guadalupe Ramirez screamed when she saw the name of her son, Jose Guadalupe Ramirez Quintero, 26. She collapsed into the arms of her daughter and human rights workers.

Ramirez's grief echoed the concerns of others whose loved ones were tossed into Topo Chico, despite being sentenced for minor offences or even while still awaiting trial.

"He had already gotten out. They picked him up again just for drinking. ... There is injustice in this prison," she said, shaking her fists and sobbing.

Authorities allowed hundreds of relatives to enter the prison Thursday afternoon. But even those who were able to confirm that their loved ones had survived feared for their safety.

One woman, who declined to give her name, visited her brother briefly and said she saw genuine fear on his face. He was only 10 days from his release date after serving nine months for drug possession. "They have threatened them so that they don't talk about what happened," she said. "Only they know, but they don't tell us anything."

"Who is going to assure me that they aren't going do anything else inside," she asked.

No escapes were reported in the clash at the Topo Chico prison in Monterrey, said Nuevo Leon state Gov. Jaime Rodriguez. The riot took place on the eve of Pope Francis' arrival in Mexico, a visit that is scheduled to include a trip next week to another prison in the border city of Ciudad Juarez.

Rodriguez said in the morning that 52 people had died, but he lowered that by three in the late afternoon. The reason for the changed death toll was not clear.

At a news conference the governor read a list of 40 names of confirmed victims, saying five of the remaining bodies had been charred by fire and four were yet to be positively identified. One of the injured was in grave condition.

The fighting began around midnight with prisoners setting fire to a storage area, sending flames and smoke billowing into the sky. Rescue workers were seen carrying injured inmates -- some with burns -- from the facility.

Rodriguez said the clash was between two factions led by a member of the infamous Zetas drug cartel, Juan Pedro Zaldivar Farias, also known as "Z-27," and Jorge Ivan Hernandez Cantu, who has been identified by Mexican media as a Gulf cartel figure.

But National Security Commissioner Renato Sales Heredia said later Thursday in a radio interview that authorities believe the fight was between two factions of the Zetas for control of the prison.

A turf war between the gangs bloodied Nuevo Leon state and neighbouring Tamaulipas between 2010 and 2012. The Zetas once nearly controlled the area around Monterrey.

The situation at the prison was so out of control that even Rodriguez acknowledged to local media that the two cartel bosses "were fighting for control" of the prison.

Mario Martinez was still awaiting word on his father-in-law, who was being held at the prison pending trial. On Thursday afternoon he said the danger of violence inside was well-known long before the riot.

"This (place) was a time bomb," Martinez said. "The authorities should not ignore what the people inside are saying."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Trudeau milking the middle class [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most-repeated boast has now been exposed as a lie. Despite his Zen-like mantra of dedicating his political life to bettering the lives of Canada’s middle class, a come-hither line bought by a gushing electorate in the 2015 election, the truth now has him milking the middle class as if it were a cash cow. Source
  • Palestinian gunman kills 3 Israeli guards at West Bank settlement, Israeli police say

    World News CBC News
    A Palestinian man with security clearance to work at a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank opened fire at a checkpoint on Tuesday, killing two Israeli security guards and a paramilitary policeman. The man, who was armed with a pistol and also seriously wounded a fourth Israeli, was shot dead, police said. Source
  • Doomsayer David Meade now claims Oct. 15 will be 'the most important date of this century or millennium'

    World News Toronto Sun
    The man whose biblical doomsday claim had people worried about Sept. 23, 2017, is not backing down. The world did not end over the weekend, and David Meade, a self-described "specialist in research and investigations," is saying that's exactly what he had expected. Source
  • Myanmar accused of crimes against humanity

    World News CBC News
    Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity in its campaign against Muslim insurgents in Rakhine state, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, and it called for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions and an arms embargo. Source
  • Fears of Bali volcano eruption sparks leads to exodus of 75,000

    World News CTV News
    BALI, Indonesia - Warnings that a volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali will erupt have sparked an exodus of more than 75,000 people that is likely to continue to swell, the country's disaster agency said Tuesday. Source
  • Fears of Bali volcano eruption spark exodus of 75,000

    World News CTV News
    BALI, Indonesia -- Warnings that a volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali will erupt have sparked an exodus of more than 75,000 people that is likely to continue to swell, the country's disaster agency said Tuesday. Source
  • North Korea lacks ability to attack U.S. planes, experts claim

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - Military analysts say North Korea doesn't have the capability or intent to attack U.S. bombers and fighter jets, despite the country's top diplomat saying it has the right do so. Source
  • North Korea lacks ability, intent to attack U.S. planes, experts claim

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- Military analysts say North Korea doesn't have either the capability or the intent to attack U.S. bombers and fighter jets, despite the country's top diplomat saying it has every right do so. Source
  • North Korea appears to bolster defences after flight by U.S. bombers

    World News CBC News
    North Korea appears to have boosted defences on its east coast, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Tuesday, after the North said U.S. President Donald Trump had declared war and that it would shoot down U.S. Source
  • Puerto Rico faces water, food shortages after Hurricane Maria

    World News CTV News
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Supermarkets are gradually re-opening in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. But many customers are going home disappointed as the island struggles to get back to normal. Most food stores and restaurants remain closed. Source