28 in­mates hacked to death in Mex­ico’s jail

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Shell-shocked rel­a­tives of Mex­i­can in­mates who had been de­cap­i­tated and mu­ti­lated by their ri­vals be­hind bars con­demned on Fri­day what they called a reign of ter­ror in­flicted by gangs that ex­tort and tor­ture fel­low pris­on­ers. Twenty-eight in­mates were killed as ri­ot­ers be­headed and hacked their ri­vals to death Thurs­day at the Las Cruces prison in Acapulco, the lat­est ex­plo­sion of vi­o­lence in Mex­ico’s often law­less jails.

Brenda Lopez, a 23-year-old psy­chol­ogy stu­dent, waited with her 80-year-old grand­mother out­side the hulk­ing con­crete struc­ture for news of her un­cle. “They won’t tell us any­thing,” she said on the verge of tears. “We don’t know how he is, where he is.” Overnight, dozens of griev­ing rel­a­tives gath­ered out­side the Pa­cific coast re­sort town’s morgue, wait­ing to be called in to iden­tify their loved ones’ bodies.

As they stood in agony, with red and blue po­lice lights flash­ing across their faces, they spoke in hushed tones about what they de­scribed as the abysmal con­di­tions in­side the jail, which holds nearly 2,200 in­mates - 65 per­cent over ca­pac­ity, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures. “He didn’t have to tell me how badly they treated him in­side. You could see it a mile away,” one 25-year-old woman said of her dead rel­a­tive, fear­ful of giv­ing her name. “The mafia ruled in there. The oth­ers lived in fear.”

One man wait­ing out­side, him­self a for­mer pris­oner said the jail was ef­fec­tively gov­erned by gangs-like many in Mex­ico, where cor­rup­tion abounds in the pen­i­ten­tiary sys­tem and the multi-bil­lion-dol­lar nar­cotics busi­ness has fu­eled an ex­plo­sion of pow­er­ful, ul­tra-vi­o­lent drug car­tels. “It’s a time bomb,” said the man, puff­ing ner­vously on a cig­a­rette and ask­ing to be iden­ti­fied only as Aviles for fear of reprisals by car­tel look­outs he said were hov­er­ing nearby. He de­scribed a fa­cil­ity in which the jail­ers were on the pay­roll of the main prison gang, mem­bers of a drug car­tel called the Independent Acapulco Car­tel.

The gang smug­gled in guns and drugs with im­punity, ex­tort­ing and tor­tur­ing other in­mates, said Aviles, who served five years at Las Cruces, three of them in the max­i­mum-se­cu­rity wing where the riot erupted. “I was tor­tured, too. The guards were all on the take. The prison di­rec­tor, too,” he said. Pris­on­ers at Las Cruces “are crim­i­nals and all, but they shouldn’t have to pay for it like that,” he said. Au­thor­i­ties have an­nounced that all staff at the prison are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion over the riot, in­clud­ing its di­rec­tor, Miguel Gomez Gar­duno. Aviles called the gangs’ de facto rule “a plague.” “It’s im­pos­si­ble to end it,” he said. “You kill 10, an­other 20 are born.”

‘Bodies piled like trash’

A morgue worker tak­ing a cig­a­rette break de­scribed a grisly scene at the prison. “As soon as you went in­side, you could smell the blood,” he said. “There were four be­headed bodies at the en­trance. The rest were piled up on top of each other in the laun­dry area, like trash. It was manic in there.” Foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tors found five bul­let cas­ings in­side-ap­par­ently fired by pris­on­ers, he said. The rest of the in­mates were beaten and stabbed to death, he said. Three guards and 11 in­mates are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for pos­si­ble in­volve­ment in the vi­o­lence, the gover­nor of the vi­o­lent south­ern state of Guer­rero, Hec­tor As­tudillo, said Fri­day.

Mex­ico’s pris­ons are fre­quently hit by ri­ots, killings and jail­breaks. This was the coun­try’s dead­li­est prison vi­o­lence since 49 in­mates were killed in Fe­bru­ary 2016 in a riot at the Topo Chico prison in Mon­ter­rey, in the north­east. “We’re mad. We’re fu­ri­ous... This can’t keep hap­pen­ing,” said Lu­ciano Pe­laez, a 66year-old con­struc­tion worker who was wait­ing to find out whether a loved one was dead or alive. But Hi­lario Salas, a lawyer who rep­re­sented in­mates at Las Cruces, was bleak on the prospects for change. “This is our daily bread in Mex­i­can jails,” he said.

— AP

ACAPULCO: A po­lice he­li­copter flies over the state prison in Acapulco, Mex­ico.

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