Mexican guards stood by during prison breakout

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The Independent US

Video from a security camera shows that guards at a Mexican prison stood by nonchalantly as 53 inmates, many of them suspected members of drug gangs, walked out — and that the guards did not rush into action with their guns drawn until well after the convoy of escape vehicles had disappeared, a Mexican newspaper reported yesterday.

The video, published on the Web site of the newspaper Reforma, provides a rare inside look at lax security inside Mexico’s prisons, a problem that makes prosecuting drug smugglers vastly more difficult. Interpol described some of the inmates, who escaped without firing a shot, as “a risk to the safety and security of citizens around the world.”

Interpol issued an international security alert for 11 of the prisoners involved in the prison break, which lasted less than three minutes on Saturday in Cieneguillas, in the northern state of Zacatecas. About a dozen of the prisoners were suspected of being members of drug gangs. The video shows bored-looking guards watching television before one of the prisoners opened an unlocked gate to his cellblock and then ordered a group of inmates to follow him into the guards’ room. The guards stepped aside, making no effort to stop the escape, and then they were shoved into the cellblock by the inmates, some of whom were armed.

Prisoners then covered the security camera with a blanket. Meanwhile, a second security camera outside the prison recorded the arrival of gunmen in police cars with flashing lights shortly before 5 am. Two guards ran to open the front gate without questioning the drivers.

WATCH THE JAILBREAK VIDEO

Eight gunmen wearing jackets with federal police insignia then entered the prison and escorted the inmates to the police cars, waiting in the prison parking lot. After they departed, one guard with his hands bound by plastic luggage ties was seen walking calmly down an empty hall.

Only after the convoy is well out of the picture are prison guards seen running toward the gate, some crouching with their guns drawn. Reforma added in a caption that the guards appeared to overacting for the cameras, “in Jim Carrey style.”

Interpol said that the Mexican authorities identified the 11 inmates as the most dangerous of the 53 escapees. Mexico has struggled to reduce corruption in its justice system. President Felipe Calderón has acknowledged that drug traffickers who are imprisoned often operate from behind bars, and he has extradited a record number of traffickers to serve time in more secure prisons in the United States.

In 2001, Mexico’s most-wanted drug lord, Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo, escaped in a laundry cart from a federal prison in Jalisco State after bribing guards. Two prison guards are serving up to 19 years in prison for aiding his escape.

Otto Roberto Herrera, who helped turn Guatemala into a corridor for cocaine bound for the United States, escaped in 2005 from a jail in Mexico City. The jail’s warden, his deputy and 10 others were accused of accepting bribes to ease his freedom. He was arrested two years later in Bogotá, Colombia.

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