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Federal Agents Raid Another Mexican Prison

January 27, 2005

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Federal agents and soldiers seized the top-security Matamoros prison near the Texas border Wednesday, a week after six prison employees were slain and their bodies dumped outside the facility’s gates amid growing violence in Mexico’s prison system.

The prison raid was the second in a month as President Vicente Fox’s government tries to regain control of the nation’s penitentiaries, where a volatile mix of corruption and vendettas among imprisoned drug lords has corroded security and led to escapes and the deaths of inmates and guards.

On Jan. 14, federal agents seized the country’s allegedly most-secure prison, La Palma, just west of Mexico City, after a prisoner smuggled in a gun and killed a fellow inmate.

The operation at the prison in Matamoros, a border city across from Brownsville, Texas, involved a 650-member security force, said Miguel Angel Yunes, an official of the federal Public Safety Department.

Yunes said two alleged drug traffickers _ Osiel Cardenas, reputed leader of the Gulf drug cartel, and Benjamin Arellano, presumed leader of the Juarez cartel _ had formed a network of alliances at Matamoros consisting of people who pretended to be lawyers and human rights activists.

The drug traffickers ``coordinated together to strengthen their control and to plan operations including escape,″ and did so with the help of prison authorities who compromised prison security by granting them special privileges, Yunes said.

Investigators say the prison employees were apparently killed by drug traffickers or as part of a feud between inmates.

Agents who swooped into the Matamoros prison have begun searching for weapons, prohibited cell phones, drugs and other outlawed items, Yunes said.

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