Rioting at Topo Chico prison in Monterrey, in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, has left 49 people dead with an additional 12 injured.
Fighting between two rival gangs – led by Jorge Ivan Hernandez Cantu, known as ‘El Credo’, of the Gulf cartel; and Juan Pedro Saldivar Farias, alias ‘El Z-27’, of the Zetas cartel – broke out around 11.30pm Wednesday night and continued until 1.30am Thursday morning when authorities regained control of the prison with the help of Mexican soldiers, marines, and federal police.
While the fighting was contained to two wings housing male inmates, the rioters also set fire to a food storage facility. The women’s wings remained without conflict, with no female or child casualties reported.
As more information became available, Governor Jaime Rodriguez lowered the original death toll of 52 to 49.
While the involvement of weapons was unclear, Rodriguez stated in a press conference on Thursday that the use of firearms was being investigated.
The governor also denied the existence of an escape or escape attempt.
In an official statement released on Thursday, the state government published the names of 40 identified victims, all male inmates. Chief of the Executive Office of the Governor, Miguel Treviño de Hoyos, stated that the office is working to identify the remaining nine casualties, five of which were burned in the fire.
The statement also ensured the government’s commitment to providing support for the families waiting for information, supplying food and water, as well as legal and bureaucratic advice, psychological care, and funeral expenses for those in need.
The state ensured that information and aid will be provided with “unrestricted respect for human rights.”
Families of the inmates who had amassed outside the prison seeking information were cleared by Thursday evening as authorities ended visiting hours.
The state of Mexican prisons was discussed in a 2014 report by United Nations Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez which found that of the country’s 389 prisons, 212 were overcrowded. Topo Chico, in particular, according to Governor Rodriguez, has a capacity of 2,600 inmates yet currently houses almost 4,000.
Overcrowding, aging facilities, and “self-governing” within the prisons are said to be responsible for incidents like these at Topo Chico and other prisons across Mexico.