Monterrey: Authorities found dozens of knives, cocaine and flat-screen televisions at the Mexican prison where a brawl killed 49 inmates, officials said today, highlighting the control drug cartels hold over many penitentiaries.
The battle at the Topo Chico prison in the northern industrial city of Monterrey was triggered by a dispute between rival leaders of the Zetas gang, authorities said.
Officials acknowledged that the prisoners had their own "self-government" at the facility, where 100 guards monitored 3,800 convicts.
After reclaiming control following yesterday's pre-dawn riot, authorities found half a kilogram of marijuana, 23 doses of crack cocaine, 30 doses of cocaine, 120 makeshift blades, 80 knives, 60 hammers, 400 lighters, 16 USB sticks, 10 MP3 players, and two 67-inch televisions, Rodriguez said.
"There is a self-government, obviously because of the financial shortfall and the lack of guards," Rodriguez said, adding that the prison was overcrowded by 35 per cent.
An official at the state's human rights commission, Sylvia Puente Aguilar, said extortion, beatings and murders are common at the prison.
"There is a dispute because illegal activities have been detected inside, such as drug dealing," Aguilar told Milenio television.
The prison battle was triggered by a dispute over control of the facility between rival Zetas members Jorge Ivan Hernandez Cantu, alias "El Credo," and Juan Pedro Zaldivar Farias, alias "El Z-27," according to the authorities.
Following the clash, both Zetas leaders were among 233 inmates who were transferred from the state facility to federal prisons, where people convicted of more serious crimes are usually held.
Relatives of victims sobbed as they read a list of the dead outside the prison. 12 other inmates were injured.
40 bodies have been identified and all had wounds consistent with stabbings or beatings with hammers and sticks, Rodriguez said.
A former inmate told AFP about a dangerous life inside the prison.
"You never sleep well because if you sleep deeply, the scorpion will sting you," said Juan, a 28-year-old former convict who was released last month.
Covered in tattoos up to his forehead, Juan said around 50 Zetas drug cartel members lord over the prison and are protected by the authorities "because they have a lot of money" from a "tax" they charge other inmates.