Clash of rival drug gangs kill 49 inmates in Topo Chico
BY GABRIELA LÓPEZ Reuters
MONTERREY, Mexico – A battle between the feared Zetas drug cartel and rivals at a prison left 49 people dead in the northeastern Mexican city of Monterrey, authorities said on Thursday. The incident was one of the worst in a series of deadly riots in recent years to rock the country’s overpopulated prisons, some of which are largely controlled by cartels. Fighting broke out before midnight in two areas of the Topo Chico prison between supporters of a gang leader known as “Zeta 27” and another group, with prisoners using bottles and blades, Nuevo León Gov. Jaime Rodríguez said. “Topo Chico is a … very old prison … with very difficult security conditions,” said Rodríguez, who described the state’s prison system as a “time bomb” that needed to be defused. A 2014 human rights report faulted Topo Chico for not preventing violent incidents. The prison has long housed members of the Zetas, known for extreme violence. One Zetas leader was stabbed to death there in September. Authorities revised down their initial death toll from 52, out of a total of about 3,500 prisoners. One victim died from gunfire, while the rest were killed from a combination of knives and other objects like bottles and chairs. Flames licked the night sky after inmates set fire to food storage areas. Milenio TV reported that inmates’ relatives who had been within the prison’s premises for conjugal visits had seen inmates with burns. Twelve people were injured, five seriously, the state government said. Rodríguez acknowledged the public perception that the Zetas dominated the facility and said the prison system was one of his principal concerns. “The problem is they have people like my brother living with narcos,” said an angry relative of an inmate doing time for robbery. Rodríguez said 40 victims had been identified so far. He added that the fighting had been brought under control at about 1:30 a.m. on Thursday and ruled out a prison break.