Prison Football Game Between Rival Drug Cartels Ends With 16 Deaths
A ‘friendly’ football game between prison inmates ended with 16 people dead after players fired shots over a disagreement about a tackle.
The match took place in Cieneguillas jail, in the northern state of Zacatecas, Mexico, on New Year’s Eve, and resulted in one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the country’s penal system since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took power in 2018.
Players included gangsters from the Gulf and Zetas Cartels; two of the most powerful rival crime syndicates in Mexico.
The game is said to have turned violent when a dispute erupted over a challenge in the penalty box, after which firearms were drawn. The federal forces and the National Guard arrived to break up the fight, but it reportedly took around three hours to stop the bloodbath, MailOnline reports.
Twenty ambulances arrived at the scene, and terrified visitors were evacuated from the prison during the violent outburst, which killed a total of 16 people; 15 at the scene and one later in hospital.
Five other inmates were also injured in the fight, though they are said to be in a stable condition.
Ismael Camberos Hernández, secretary of Public Security, said a total of four firearms were confiscated after the fight.
A search also uncovered ’77 bags of marijuana, 18 packages of rice paper, 17 knives, a saw, a 9mm cartridge, three pairs of scissors, nine phones, phone chargers, a phone battery, a memory disk, two hammers, a bottle of liquor and a can of beer jug.’
In an interview with Mexican radio program Aristegui, Camberos said officials believe the contraband may have been brought into the prison during visiting hours on New Year’s Eve, as a search conducted just days before found no weapons, as Reuters reports.
The government has launched an investigation to determine who is responsible for the incident and to find out how the weapons entered the prison.
We are waiting for the results of the investigation – this includes the director, senior managers and commanders – to determine if we are going to remove staff.
Mexican Security Minister, Alfonso Durazo, cited the need to improve the nation’s penal system in a series of tweets on Wednesday, January 1.
Durazo detailed his security plans, writing (translated):
We will continue promoting the reorganisation of the prisons to fight the crime that is organised from there.
Cieneguillas prison holds members of five criminal groups, including the Gulf and Zetas Cartels. After the fight broke out, 120 inmates were relocated in an attempt to prevent further violence.
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