Mexican Officials Say Prisoners Acted As Hit Men

Prisoners in a northern Mexico jail were allowed out at night to carry out murder-for-hire jobs using jail guards’ weapons and vehicles, officials said Sunday, revealing a level of corruption that is stunning even in a country where prison breakouts are common as guards look the other way. The prisoners carried out three massacres this year in the city of Torreón in which 35 people were killed, Ricardo Nájera, the spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said at a news conference. Among them, the authorities said, was last week’s attack on birthday revelers at a party hall. The gang shot randomly into the crowd, they said, killing 17 people.

A men’s prison in Mexico City
A men’s prison in Mexico City

Prisoners in a northern Mexico jail were allowed out at night to carry out murder-for-hire jobs using jail guards’ weapons and vehicles, officials said Sunday, revealing a level of corruption that is stunning even in a country where prison breakouts are common as guards look the other way.

The prisoners carried out three massacres this year in the city of Torreón in which 35 people were killed, Ricardo Nájera, the spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said at a news conference. Among them, the authorities said, was last week’s attack on birthday revelers at a party hall. The gang shot randomly into the crowd, they said, killing 17 people.

Ballistics studies confirmed that four guns used in the shooting were the same as those assigned to jail guards, Mr. Nájera said.

“The criminals carried out their executions as part of a settling of scores against members of rival gangs linked to organized crime,” he said. “Unfortunately, in these executions the criminals also cowardly murdered innocent civilians — and then returned to their cells.”

The suspected assassins were recruited from a jail in Gómez Palacio, a city that adjoins Torreón. Mr. Nájera said the jail’s director, Margarita Rojas Rodríguez, allowed them to leave in official vehicles and use the guards’ guns in the executions.

Ms. Rojas and three other jail officials are being held for 20 days while officials determine charges against them, he said.

Mexico’s interior minister, Francisco Blake Mora, said at the news conference that the government would review “the alleged complicity of authorities so that the criminals, instead of being behind bars, leave with impunity, armed and equipped to commit acts as deplorable as the one last week.”

Mexico’s prisons are known as havens for many criminal groups that operate from behind bars. Prisoners run telephone extortion rings from jail, and drug lords issue orders.

In response, the administration of President Felipe Calderón has extradited a record number of top drug suspects to the United States, but breakouts in which prison officials are in some way complicit remain common. The most brazen occurred in the central state of Zacatecas in May 2009, when 53 men left their cells and fled in waiting cars.

Source : nytimes