Friday, May 7, 2010

Puerta grande

Where do Mexican prisoners in the war on drugs go?

Some go to the maximum security facilities in Ciudad Juarez, Culiacan, Matamoros and Reynosa. Some then escape, prompting prison wardens to become fugitives or be arrested themselves.

Some go to state facilities in the same cities, or elsewhere like Zacatecas. There, they mingle with members of rival organizations and quite often spark riots resulting in deaths. Some escape – in one instance last year, 53 walked out of the Zacatecas facility.

Some go to the medium-security facility in Nayarit. This is largely reserved for allegedly corrupt policemen, prompting jokes about how there are more policemen inside the facility than there are guarding it.

And then some go to either Almoloya de Juarez in the State of Mexico, or Puente Grande in Jalisco. The former houses MIguel Angel Felix Gallardo and Ernesto "Don Neto" Fonseca, among other aging dons of the Mexican drug trade.

The latter once housed Chapo Guzman, until he decided he'd had enough of being behind bars and hopped into a laundry cart and was wheeled out. The prison was unofficially renamed Puerta Grande.

Puente Grande received a "huge overhaul" after Chapo's escape, the government promised. But in 2008, a few prisoners escaped; last year, I believe there was another breakout.

Late last night, the Army searched Puente Grande. What did the soldiers find? Two AR-15 rifles, a kilo and a half of cocaine, 63 cartridges, 75 cellphones, two laptops, and a few more handguns.

The prison's chief of security is now missing. This was also the first time the Army had been asked to conduct a search on the prison, the regional commander said.

Everyone knows Mexico's prisons have long been problematic. But in the midst of a drug war in which some 121,000 people have been locked up, for this sort of thing to happen at Puente Grande is just inexcusable.

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