A prison riot in Mexico left 13 dead and 65 injured when rival prisoners squared off in a cell block just before daybreak.
The riot took place on Saturday in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi, sparking just after 4:30 am in a cell block. Though officials at La Pila prison had regained control by the morning, the prison riot left 13 dead as close to 100 prisoners fought with makeshift knives and fists. It wasn’t immediately clear if all of those killed were prisoners or if any prison officials were included.
Concepcion Tovar, head of the state’s prison system, said the deadly riot was the work of a prison gang that had been harassing and robbing other inmates. Prison officials held back on blaming drug gangs, who have waged widescale turf battles that have resulted in thousands of killings in Mexico in recent years.
Other prison riots in Mexico in recent years have been blamed these gangs.
Mexico is undergoing a vast war on drugs and the dangerous cartels that traffic drugs to the United States. In the first four months of the presidency of Enrique Pena Nieto, who campaigned on a promise to end the violence gripping the nation, killings linked to drug gangs have fallen 14 percent to 4,249.
But as the country cracks down on drug cartels, prisons have become overcrowded and rival gangs in close proximity have often continued their turf battles behind bars.
These prisoners often have control what goes on behind bars. The National Human Rights Commission reported last year that drug gangs were essentially in charge of the interior of many Mexican prisons.
Mexican officials said the violence at La Pila prison was a “fight not an uprising,” as prisoners were looking to battle one another rather than targeting guards. There is an investigation into whether prison officials cold have played a role in the violence.
Though the prison riot left 13 dead, the death toll could still rise. Officials said 22 of the 65 people injured were in serious condition.