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Topo Chico penitentiary in Monterrey. Topo Chico penitentiary in Monterrey.

Inmate behind riot was ‘not dangerous’

Los Zetas regional boss was transferred to Topo Chico prison two months ago

One of two inmates believed responsible for triggering yesterday’s prison riot in Nuevo León was transferred to the prison after a judge decided he was not dangerous.

Juan Pedro Saldívar Farías, also known as “El Z-27,” was transferred two months ago to the Topo Chico penitentiary in Monterrey after a judge in Tamaulipas ruled he did not require close surveillance.

Nuevo León Governor Jaime Rodríguez Calderón described the decision as “absurd.”

He also clarified during an interview yesterday that the riot that killed 49 inmates and injured 12 others early yesterday morning was not between members of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, but between rival factions within the Los Zetas cartel itself.

The outbreak of violence followed Saldívar Farías’ arrival and his subsequent efforts to take control of the prison from César Iván Hernández Cantú, said state prosecutor Robert Flores, who cited declarations by other prisoners as the source of the information.

Saldívar Farías, arrested in 2013, is believed to have been the regional Los Zetas chief in Tamaulipas. He has been linked to the 2011 murder of Jaime Zapata, an agent with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and American citizen David Michael Hartley in 2010.

Hernández Cantú was arrested in 2012, accused of kidnapping and drug trafficking for the Gulf Cartel. He has also been accused of involvement in at least 48 assassinations in Nuevo León from 2011 until the time of his arrest.

Violence in Mexico’s 372 state and municipal jails is ongoing, according to official figures. Last year, there were 1,378 reports of violent incidents.

A riot in 2012 at the Apodaca penitentiary, also in Nuevo León, resulted in the deaths of 44 prisoners and the escape of 30.

An InSight Crime analysis today by David Gagne said the violence is closely linked to the tight control criminal groups have over many jails in Mexico. One investigation has found that Los Zetas gang turned a prison in Coahuila into a dumping ground for more than 150 of its victims.

The National Human Rights Commission has said that 70% of the country’s jails are “self-governed” by gangs and cartels.

National Security Commisssion Renato Sales admitted as much yesterday in an interview with Radio Fórmula, saying more than 70% of prisons are overcrowded and operate in uncontrollable conditions.

He called for modifications to the system of state penitentiaries, urging governors to find the political will and resources to prevent self-government by prisoners, corruption among prison guards, disorder and overcrowding.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Universal (sp), El Blog del Narco (sp), InSight Crime (en)

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