The governor of Zacatecas has announced the dismissal of the warden of a state prison where 17 inmates were killed in two riots this week.
Alejandro Tello told a press conference Friday that authorities believed that the removal of Antonio Solís as head of the Cieneguillas Social Reinsertion Center was necessary in light of the events that took place Tuesday night and Thursday morning.
Sixteen inmates were killed in the first riot, while another prisoner was killed in the second clash. Ten other inmates were wounded. Authorities relocated 120 prisoners after the first outbreak of violence.
Zacatecas Public Security Secretary Ismael Camberos Hernández said Thursday that authorities are investigating prison guards and other staff for allowing the entry of weapons into the facility, located just west of Zacatecas city.
A search of the prison after the New Year’s Eve riot uncovered almost 30 blades and knives, a variety of other weapons, marijuana, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and other prohibited items.
The probe extends to Solís but Governor Tello stressed that the decision to dismiss him wasn’t intended as criticism of his “work, effort [and] commitment” as prison warden. A replacement warden will be appointed next week, he said.
The governor said that authorities know that the Cieneguillas prison is a “time bomb” because it houses hundreds of highly-dangerous prisoners with links to organized crime in a minimum-security environment.
“We mustn’t forget that we’re talking about a prison that’s more than three decades old, we mustn’t lose sight [of the fact] that we’re talking about a prison that today houses several hundred federal-jurisdiction inmates [in] a minimum-security penitentiary,” Tello said.
“For a long time, since the first day of my government [in 2016], we’ve been speaking with federal authorities insistently about the prison issue because we know that it is a time bomb,” he added.
The governor said the violence seen in recent days in the prison was an extension of turf wars between criminal groups in the state, asserting “they’re in a fight outside and they’re settling scores on the inside.”
Security Secretary Camberos said the violence was due to disputes between members of the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels.
Tello said that federal intervention is required to guarantee safety in the prison, adding that he had spoken to both National Intelligence Center director Audomaro Martínez Zapata and Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo.
The former made a commitment to identify the cause of the violence and find a solution to it, he said, while the latter pledged that the federal government would provide additional resources for the prison and training for staff.