28 Dead and 3 Wounded After Brawl at Mexican Prison


The prison riot came a day after gun battles between two drug gangs in the northern state of Chihuahua left at least 14 people dead, and three days after nine people were killed in Puebla, a state east of Mexico City, in a dispute related to control over the lucrative trade in stolen fuel, officials said.

Last Friday, 19 people were reported killed in the northwestern state of Sinaloa in shootouts between the police and gunmen.

These outbreaks of violence have highlighted the worsening security situation in Mexico, as homicides have surged to record levels. Officials opened 2,186 homicide investigations in May, the highest monthly tally since the government began publishing homicide statistics two decades ago. In all, more than 9,900 homicide investigations were opened in the first five months of the year, up about 30 percent from the same period last year.

Experts say the surge in violence reflects an increasingly volatile criminal landscape that has resulted in part from the Mexican government’s longstanding strategy of pursuing kingpins as a way to disrupt organized crime.

This approach, first championed by President Felipe Calderón and continued by his successor, President Enrique Peña Nieto, has been successful in removing powerful crime bosses — like Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo — but has spurred the fragmentation of once-monolithic enterprises into an array of smaller gangs that have waged bloody battles of succession.

In addition, analysts say, criminal groups that may have once been exclusively focused on drug trafficking have diversified their enterprises, branching out into businesses like extortion, kidnapping, fuel theft and illegal gambling. Changes in political control after recent regional and local elections may also have contributed to the surge in violence, experts say, as the arrival of new leadership has dissolved old pacts between corrupt officials and criminal groups.

After peaking under Mr. Calderón in 2011, homicide counts fell sharply, but they began rising again in 2014.

The increase in homicides has been more dispersed than the last wave, with many happening in places that had been relatively calm.

Criminal groups have long exercised at least partial control over the cellblocks of some Mexican prisons, and deadly violence between rival gangs has broken out from time to time.

In February 2016, at least 49 inmates were killed in a brawl between rival groups at a penitentiary in the state of Nuevo León in northern Mexico.

In a review of the country’s prisons and jails published this year, the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico gave the Guerrero system abysmal marks and expressed particular concern with the Acapulco prison, saying it suffered from, among other problems, overcrowding, insufficient security personnel and illicit activities.

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