- Warden and prison staff under investigation after escape
- Juárez remains nervous, US consulate cancels appointments
- The Mexicles gang has a long and violent frontier history
EL PASO, Tx. — A prison guard has been fired and under investigation after luxury ‘VIP’ cells were found with alcohol, drugs and parties following a fatal escape on the day of New Year’s Eve at a prison in Juárez, Mexico, which shares a border with El Paso, Texas, which killed more than a dozen people, according to state authorities.
The state of Chihuahua, Mexico, said the director of Cereso Prison No. 3, Alejandro Alvarado Tellez, and other prison staff were being investigated in relation to the escape, the riot and the smuggling of drugs and firearms discovered in the establishment.
In August, Alvarado Tellez was brought in to replace the former warden after a prison gang fight left three people dead and sparked a wave of “narcoterrorism” on the streets of Juárez on a day known as “Thursday”. black”.
The Chihuahua state attorney general’s office said 17 people (10 guards and security guards, as well as seven prisoners) were killed in the prison breakout and riot.
Juárez was left on edge Tuesday after a series of street shootings as police continue to search for 25 prisoners who escaped during an all-out assault on the prison on New Year’s Day Sunday morning.
The US Consulate in Juárez canceled all public meetings on Tuesday after asking staff to temporarily shelter in place Monday night as a precaution due to “reports of gunshots occurring in multiple locations” in the border town .
Two Chihuahua state police officers and five gunmen were killed in clashes Monday night as part of a bloody start to 2023 with more than two dozen deaths linked to the prison break and attacks on the police.
The police force’s main target is Ernesto Alfredo Piñon de la Cruz, 33, known as ‘El Neto’, the notorious leader of the Mexicles gang who wears an eye patch and escaped while that he was serving a sentence of more than 200 years for kidnapping and homicide cases. .
On Tuesday, authorities in response to the escape reportedly began transferring some 200 gang members from Cereso to other prisons.
How the attack happened
The breakout was a well-planned assault involving bulletproof vehicles, rifles and even a grenade launcher against the state prison holding around 3,900 inmates, senior members of Mexico’s Security Cabinet said Monday during a briefing. press conference in Mexico City.
Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said the attack began around 6.30am on Sunday when a white Hummer H2 pulled up and a guard was killed at a checkpoint at the entrance from jail. The Hummer fled and two men inside were killed in a clash with police after a car chase, he said.
The checkpoint attack would have been a diversion for a planned riot that broke out inside the prison, said Sandoval, a general in the Mexican army. Prison guards and a reaction team responding to the riot were attacked by inmates armed with firearms.
Authorities are trying to determine how the weapons used by the prisoners were smuggled into the facility. Sandoval explained that out of 10 rifles found by the response forces, only three belonged to the guards.
City police initially did not enter the jail when the riot unfolded, Sandoval said. The National Guard, backed by Army troops and state police, entered around 10 a.m. and by noon had taken control of the facility as worried family members of the inmates and staff gathered outside.
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The prison’s electrical system and gas lines were damaged during the riots, causing delays as authorities attempted to regain control of the facility, state officials added.
Aerial photos showed crowds of men in gray prison-issued tracksuits forced to sit with their hands on their heads in prison yards as they were surrounded by soldiers or state police as they regained control.
The Chihuahua attorney general’s office initially reported that at least 24 inmates had escaped. The number was later increased to 27, but Mexican federal authorities later determined that there were in fact 25 escapees after learning that two had died.
Drugs, cash and “VIP” prison cells
Soldiers and state police who regained control of the prison found what Sandoval described as 10 beautifully decorated “VIP” cells, equipped with televisions and other amenities. Sandoval said one cell contained a safe of more than 1.7 million pesos, worth $87,613.
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Inside the prison, the military also found a slew of contraband, including 84 cell phones, 285 bags of crystal meth (with a total of nearly 9 pounds of crystal meth), as well as hundreds of packs of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and eight fentanyl pills. .
Who is ‘El Neto’? Who are the Mexicans?
Questions arose about how the prison was run and whether the gangs were really responsible.
A short 13-second video clip released Monday by the Diario de Juárez newspaper showed Piñon de la Cruz, in street clothes instead of jail gray, next to a singer as music plays while celebrating “el día Mexicle “, or Mexico Day. A cooler and a plasma television are visible in the background of the prison.
The Mexicles are a street gang formed by Mexican citizens from the Texas prison system who banded together for protection in the late 1980s. Gang members were deported and settled in Juárez as rivals to the gang Barrio Azteca.
The Mexicles gang is known for using tattoos of the “Hecho en Mexico” eagle logo; similar tattoos are also used to show Mexican heritage by people who are not gang members.
The Mexicles have been blamed for the August jail brawl and the “Black Thursday” bombings last summer, as well as the burning of buses and businesses and attacks on police during the ” Night of Vengeance” in November 2019.
Mexican officials say the ‘Night of Revenge’ outbreak of violence and arson in Juárez was ordered by the Mexicles in an effort to prevent a major law enforcement raid planned for Cereso No. 3 .
The reputed leader of the gang, “El Neto” Piñon de la Cruz, has a lengthy criminal record. He entered Cereso in 2017. According to El Paso Times records, he was convicted of leading a violent kidnapping ring that targeted Juárez business owners in nearly 39 kidnappings between 2008 and 2010.
Among the victims were the general manager of a Toshiba factory, a four-time shot victim who died after being released, and a high school student whose finger was severed.
Piñon de la Cruz’s reputed second-in-command, Cesar Vega-Muñoz, also known as “El Chilin”, who was originally believed to be one of the escapees, died in the escape.
In 2010, Mexican officials said that Piñon de la Cruz was injured and that Vega-Muñoz escaped from a Cereso prison van during a violent ambush in December 2010 while being transported from the jail to a court appearance, records show.
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In 2015, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers deported Vega-Muñoz and handed him over to Mexican authorities after he was arrested while working at a Church’s chicken restaurant in Socorro, a suburb of El Paso. .
The Mexicles were allied with the Sinaloa drug cartel during the war with the Juárez drug cartel ten years ago. On Monday, Mexico’s defense secretary said the gang was now allied with the Caborca cartel, based in the states of Sonora and Chihuahua and reputedly led by former drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who was captured l ‘last summer.