Several inmates came out of their cells, led the prison guards out, went to a pavilion where there were prisoners from a rival gang, they began to murder them and then set fire. Thus, the main women’s prison in Honduras became the scene of a massacre in which at least 46 women died, the Public Ministry and Forensic Medicine reported on Wednesday.
Videos released by the government from inside the prison located about 50 kilometers northwest of Tegucigalpa showed several pistols, many machetes and other bladed weapons found after the riot.
Honduran President Xiomara Castro affirmed that the riot in the town of Támara was “planned by gangs in view and with the patience of security authorities” and after announcing “drastic measures” she dismissed the Minister of Security, Ramón Sabillón, and replaced him with Gustavo Sánchez, who until now was director general of the National Police.
the recluses they had been complaining for weeks that gang members were threatening them. According to authorities, the gang followed through on those threats Tuesday. Early in the morning the attackers murdered the women. Many of them burned to death and the rest were shot or stabbed, said Sandra Rodríguez Vargas, deputy commissioner for Penitentiary Centers.
Juan López Rochez, chief of operations of the National Police, explained to Associated Press that the gang members of Barrio 18 They came out of their cells, inexplicably open, They went to their rivals’ section and “began to shoot inside.”
“It seems, it is an investigation to be confirmed, that they used oil to set it on fire,” he added. Several of the inmates managed to get out and were attacked with bladed weapons.
The fire left cell walls blackened and bunk beds reduced to twisted heaps of metal.
Rifles, grenades and bladed weapons
Rochez added that about twenty weapons were seized -among them an AR-15 rifle, two Uzis and two fragmentation grenades- and said that it is investigating how this weapon got inside the prison -which housed more than 900 women- and the role played by the agents who guarded the prison. place. “Obviously there has to be human error, we are investigating it,” she said.
the riot is the worst tragedy in a women’s detention center in Central America since 2017when 41 girls from a shelter for troubled youth in Guatemala died after setting mattresses on fire to protest the rapes and other ill-treatment they suffered in that institution.
The deadliest event in a Central American prison in a century also occurred in Honduras in 2012 at the Comayagua penitentiary, where 361 inmates died in a fire.
At least seven inmates were transferred to a Tegucigalpa hospital for gunshot and stab wounds, reported authorities from the Hospital Escuela. On Tuesday night, the spokespersons for the health center said that two of them had been discharged and the rest were stable.
It was a foretold tragedy, said Johanna Paola Soriano Euceda, who was waiting outside the Tegucigalpa morgue for news about her mother, Maribel Euceda, and her sister, Karla Soriano. Both were being tried for drug trafficking, but were being held in the same area as the convicted prisoners.
Soriano Euceda recounted that his mother had told him on Sunday by phone that “the girls (members of the Barrio 18 gang) were scattered, who live fighting with them and from then on we did not speak again.”
Another woman, who did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals, said she was waiting for news about her friend Alejandra Martínez, 26, who is being held in module one and accused of robbery.
“She told me on Sunday, the last time I saw her, that the 18 (from the Barrio) had threatened them and that if they did not hand over a relative they were going to kill them,” she said.
Gangs sometimes require their victims to “turn over” a friend or relative by giving their name, address, and description. so gang members can find them later and kidnap, rob or kill you.
Officials described the killings as a “terrorist act” and acknowledged that the gangs had essentially taken over some parts of the prison.
“We are not going to negotiate,” warns the government
Julissa Villanueva, Vice Minister of Security and head of prisons, suggested that the riot began in response to government actions to free prisons from the power of organized crime and assured that they will “under no circumstances allow the attack or the sabotage” by “organized crime that has hijacked the prison system of this country”.
“We are not going to give in,” he stressed in a televised message after the riot. “We are not going to negotiate.”
As Joaquín Mejía, an academic from the Jesuit Reflection, Research and Communication Team in Honduras, explained to AP, two of the biggest problems in Honduran prisons are abandonment suffered by the authorities and the internal control capacity of the inmates.
Although the Castro government announced an intervention to change this situation, the Támara mutiny evidences the failure of efforts to purge the prison police and prevent the entry of drugs or weapons into prisons.
Meanwhile, the grim task of trying to identify the corpses, some charred, continued.
On the outskirts of the morgue, nervousness spread as some bodies in white bags were transferred from a container to an indoor area where autopsies were carried out and other already identified bodies began to be delivered to the families. Some were attended by health personnel to be able to cope with the moment.
The Bukele model in El Salvador
Tuesday’s riot could increase pressure on Honduras to emulate the drastic zero-tolerance, no-privilege prisons established in neighboring El Salvador by President Nayib Bukele.
Although the repression of gangs in El Salvador has led to human rights violations, it has also proved immensely popular in a country long terrorized by street gangs.
“One of the serious dangers is the ‘bukelization’ of the country’s security policy, with all that this implies,” said Mejía.