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Prisoners Still In Control; Attention on Prison Corruption

May 23, 1991

MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) _ Five days after a behind-bars gun battle between rival drug gangs that left 18 people dead, police have made no effort to retake Tamaulipas state prison from the drug smugglers who control it.

News reports Wednesday indicated the turf battle involving drug baron Oliverio Chavez Araujo, who was injured in the riot across from Brownsville, Texas, had spread outside prison walls.

The reports said the body of Chavez’ attorney, Francisco de Jesus Camacho Guerrero, had been found by a rural road 60 miles southwest of Matamoros.

State judicial police refused to comment on the reports, which described Camacho’s death as the latest in a tit-for-tat battle among drug gangs.

U.S. officials say Chavez has run his drug empire from inside the prison since becoming an inmate in 1988.

The riot Friday began when a Colombian inmate, German Yetes, shot and wounded Chavez in revenge for a triple murder in Brownsville.

Yetes - who was immediately slain by Chavez’ bodyguards - reportedly believed Chavez was behind the murder of Yetes’ brother and sister-in-law, William and Judith Botero, and a Mexican woman named Dolores Mendoza.

The Boteros had been arrested in 1989 on drug charges and were slain only a few days after ending their sentences at the Matamoros prison.

Brownsville area police said the Botero deaths were believed part of a drug turf battle between Chavez and Juan Garcia Abrego, a rival drug baron.

The Mexico City daily La Jornada on Wednesday quoted what it described as a confidential, internal memorandum on Chavez from the federal attorney general’s office.

The document suggests links between Chavez and prison officials, who allowed him to have such amenities as cellular telephones and armed bodyguards, La Jornada said.

A federal official said earlier this week that authorities had not challenged Chavez because they were afraid of him and his heavily armed prison gang.

Three 9mm pistols and a .44 magnum were collected from the prison over the weekend, but officials say they don’t know how many more weapons remain inside.

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari on Tuesday fired the federal attorney general, Enrique Alvarez del Castillo, after months of controversy over corruption in the federal judicial police and human rights abuses.

Problems at the Tamaulipas prison, known as El Cerro, are compounded by overcrowding. The prison was built to hold 250 people but holds about 1,200 prisoners, including 32 American citizens.

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