Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat
|Tunnel prisoners use for their escape (PGR photo)|
Authorities suspect Zetas are likely behind the Piedras Negras mass prison break announced on Monday. The number of 132 dropped to 129 yesterday when three women suspected of escaping were found hiding in the prison. The number again amended late Tuesday when two prisoners not included in the original fugitive list were confirmed to have escaped. The Tally stands at 131.
Reportedly the prisoners escaped through a clandestine tunnel. However other reports say it would be impossible for 132 escapees to pass through the tunnel in a short timeframe without being detected, a more likely scenario is that they escaped over a period of several days. Piedras Negras is a border town directly adjacent to Eagle Pass Texas. The escape tunnel was 21 feet in length and 4 foot in diameter, subsequently passing through the tunnel prisoners cut through a chain link fence to freedom.
Jorge Luis Moran, public safety secretary of Coahuila, told the AP “inmates inside the prison reported that those who plotted the escape were Zetas members and that some prisoners not in the cartel were forced to go along”.
"Clearly, the Zetas are behind this escape," said Moran.
|Photo of the two fugitives captured in shootout|
Mileno reported late Tuesday; Moran announced two of the inmates were captured after a shooting with state police. They were armed in an SUV driving about 40 miles away from the prison.
(click to enlarge map)
(click to enlarge map)
Zocalo, the popular Coahuila newspaper, reported that a man Identified as one of the Piedras Negras fugitives was found in Monclova, severally dehydrated. That is a driving distance of 150 miles.
There were a number of stolen and abandoned passenger buses found in various regions that may be connected to the escape and used to transport some of the fugitives out of the area.
A Red Alert was imposed along the border in cities in proximity to Piedras, cities such as Acuna, 55 miles west of Piedras Negras, have soldiers and police at the cities entrances inspecting vehicles entering and exiting.
When the prison break was discovered, a reactionary unit was deployed immediately to Piedras Negras from Saltillo, approximately a four hour drive. During the drive the unit was intercepted by a group of gunmen with high caliber weapons with the obvious intent of disrupting the journey of the special unit.
A shootout commenced that resulted in four of the sicarios being killed.
“The killed individuals were not part of the escapees, but clearly, they are part of the criminal group of the Zetas, which we presumed were the ones that organized the prison break in the CERESO of Piedras Negras, and they attacked the reactionary unit with the purpose of stopping them”, stated Moran.
The General Attorney of Justice of Coahuila (PGJE), Homero Ramos, revealed that the majority of the 129 inmates that escaped belonged to the criminal group of the Zetas and that 86 of them were sentenced for federal offenses, which are linked to drug trafficking.
Officials of the U.S. border reported being on high alert, and Eagle Pass Police Chief Tony Castaneda said his department had received the list of the escaped federal inmates.
The prison housed 734 inmates, but is woefully understaffed having only 12 guards. On Monday, federal Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said that only 180,000 of the country's 430,000 city and state police officers had been vetted and checked and that about 65,000 of those tested had failed the tests.
Moran complained that Coahuila's attempts to comply with the vetting process may have been responsible for the low number of guards on duty at the Piedras Negras prison when the jailbreak occurred. Also attributed to the cause of the low number, is the recent number of guards and officials were dismissed after failing background checks, he said.
“The prison break of the State penitentiary of Piedras Negras is deplorable.(The) Vulnerability of the state institutions of the states needs to be corrected”, Tweeted Felipe Calderon.
Mass prison breaks are not uncommon in Mexico; however Monday’s prison break is the largest since December 2010 in Nuevo Laredo when 141 inmates escaped from the penitentiary in the Tamaulipas city.
|(Click to enloarge-Two sections)|
VIDEO HAS ESCAPE MAP AND MULTIPLE PHOTOS OF THE TUNNEL (AT THE END OF THE VID)Sources used to write this post:Zocalo, Universal, Milenio, Proceso