The fearsome drugs cartels of Honduras and El Salvador not only run large sections of the south American countries’ cities they even control the prisons. The overcrowded and often violent jails are used as makeshift headquarters by gang bosses, says Honduran journalist Marcel Orsoto who admits: “Most of the murder orders come from prisons, which is where the ringleaders are…CONTINUE READING>>...CONTINUE READING
“They order the extortion, murder and invasion of whole neighbourhoods due to the access to communication they have,” Marcel added. Speaking to The Sun, he said that bosses of the ultra-violent MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs control trade in booze, drugs and weapons in the hellhole lockups.
Prison staff and even quite senior public officials live in gear of the gangs, he says, with the bitter rivalries between the two competing drugs cartels frequently erupting into violence behind bars.
Marcel described how a riot at the Centro Femenino de Adaptacion Social, a women’s penitentiary around 12 miles from the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa left 41 dead after an armed Barrio 18 hit squad broke in and started indiscriminately spraying the inmates with automatic weapons fire.
The gangsters herded suspected MS-13 supporters into and enclosed area and lit a fire to prevent them from escaping. “There were bodies piled up in a bathroom, charred women who ended their last days in this world hugging, or others who ended up underneath their beds in their desperation to escape the flames,” he said.
President Xiomara Castro said that prison guards had known in advance that gang members were planning the riot but did nothing to prevent it. She warned that she would take “drastic measures” to try to end prison corruption.
A police crackdown on prisons across the country saw surprise searches which turned up hundreds of pistols and assault rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition and even hand grenades, as well as vast amounts of cash and valuable jewellery with an estimated value of some £7million.
In neighbouring El Salvador, prisons are even more chaotic and dangerous, with gang members “stacked like sardines” in the brutal Quezaltepeque Penal Centre.
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele has promised that conditions would become harsher still, with an end to prisoners enjoying free access to “prostitutes, PlayStations, screens, mobile phones and computers.”
In El Salvador’s largest prison, Esperanza, the jailers live in fear of their prisoners. In one riot at the massively overcrowded jail, where 33,000 lags are squeezed into space designed for 10,000, Marcel says gang members “massacred their guards, tore off one’s head and played soccer with it.”
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With nearly two percent of El Salvador’s adult population behind bars, the country has a huge incarceration rate. In February President Bukele announced the opening of the new 40,000-capacity Terrorism Confinement Centre – designed to hold the most violent and dangerous offenders.
El Salvador’s Prisons Director Osiris Luna said the new 410-acre prison would be guarded by 600 troops and 250 police officers.
“All those home boys, those terrorists in the organisation that made our beloved Salvadoran people suffer, will be contained and subjected to a severe régime,” he said.
After a massive increase in gang-related murders last year the authorities in El Salvador declared a national state of emergency, allowing police to make arrests without warrants.
Soldiers and armed police rounded up anyone suspected of being involved in gang activity, a policy that has been harshly criticised by human rights organisations.
Human Rights Watch said that the mass arrests had worsened the country’s “severe prison overcrowding” leading to a risk of even more violence behind bars…CONTINUE READING>>