In the early hours of Saturday May 16, an armed group entered the prison in Cineguillas, Zacatecas, and freed 53 prisoners without firing a shot. According to governor Amalia García, preliminary investigations point to probable official involvement in the prison break, and the 20 gunmen who descended on the prison in 10 SUVs are presumed to be linked to the Gulf Cartel. Officials have speculated that the break-in was a direct response to recent arrests and drug seizures dealt to drug gangs in the region.
A search is currently underway by state and federal law enforcement agencies as well as the military, spanning the neighboring states of Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosí, Durango, and Jalisco. Officials are using two Blackhawk helicopters in the search, recently acquired from the U.S. government as part of the Merida Initiative.
Hortensia Aragón, president of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), told reporters that Zacatecas governor Amalia García had submitted at least a dozen requests to the federal government for prisoner transfers from the prison, citing concern over the number of inmates linked to powerful drug gangs. For her part, García said she is working closely with the state Attorney General’s Office to carry out a timely and thorough investigation.
In the meantime, Reforma newspaper published prison security videos on its website, which shows armed commandos dressed as government agents arriving at the prison, singling out their targets for release, and departing the prison in less than three minutes. State officials say that preliminary investigations suggest that the gunmen received some support from inside the prison.
The state’s public security director, Alejandro Rojas Chalico, resigned on Friday May 22 in light of the prison break, after taking command of the agency only in March. The 40 guards who were at the prison during the break as well as the prison director are being held in isolation in order to determine their involvement. Elsewhere, state prison directors are currently under investigation in Durango and Chihuahua for suspected involvement in prisoner escapes, both in March 2009.
Mejía, Irma. “Comando libera a 53 reos sin disparar, en Zacatecas.” El Universal May 17, 2009.
Álvarez, Xóchitl. “Amalia García havía pedido reubicar a reos peligros, advierten.” El Universal May 17, 2009.
“Hubo colusión en la fuga de reos: Amalia García.” El Economista May 17, 2009.
“Renuncia titular de SSP de Zacatecas,” El Universal May 23, 2009.