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Calm Returning to Prison Near Texas Border

May 21, 1991

MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) _ Authorities today kept a watchful eye on the prison taken over Saturday by inmates in a bloody riot that left 18 dead and eight wounded. But they made no move to seize the facility by force.

About 100 police officers and troops stood guard outside the Tamaulipas prison, which is in a residential neighborhood in western Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

The situation at the prison was described today as peaceful, although authorities have not yet retaken the structure.

However, eight unarmed guards were back at their posts on Monday, and families have been allowed to enter the prison to deliver food and clothes to inmates.

″Definitely we can say that the state is controlling this situation,″ Aquilino Sifuentes, chief of criminal investigations for the Tamaulipas attorney general’s office, said Monday.

Authorities said the trouble began Friday evening after one prisoner, German Yepez, tried to shoot reputed drug lord Oliverio Chavez Araujo, also incarcerated.

Chavez, 33, escaped with a minor wound to the jaw, but Yepez was killed by Chavez’s armed bodyguards - also inmates.

Authorities said Yepez apparently was retaliating for the deaths in Brownsville of two relatives who had been released from Tamaulipas after serving drug sentences.

Brownsville-area police said those deaths were believed to be part of drug turf battles between Chavez and Juan Garcia Abrego, a rival reputed drug baron.

Prison director Jesus Urquiza said he did not know whether any inmates were still armed. But authorities at the scene reported that by Monday afternoon only four weapons had been surrendered.

″We cannot comment on any questions of security. What we can say is that the situation inside is peaceful,″ he said.

U.S. Consul Donald E. Wells predicted earlier that Mexican authorities would rely on negotiations and not storm the facility.

Thirty-two inmates have identified themselves as Americans, including two women. Wells said he spent an hour Monday talking to three male American prisoners through a window in the facility.

″They all said the same thing, the situation is more or less back to normal,″ he said. ″They don’t feel that they are in any exceptional danger.″

Overcrowding was a major factor in tension at the prison, which was built for 250 but houses about 1,500, Wells said.