Suspected members of a Mexican drug cartel disguised as federal police swept into a prison in the northern state of Zacatecas on Saturday and freed 53 inmates, police and army officials said.
The early-morning jailbreak, which took less than five minutes and involved no violence, was carried out by 20 heavily armed men who arrived in 10 vehicles and a helicopter, they said.
All of the escaped prisoners are believed to be members of the armed wing of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, one of the country’s most powerful criminal organizations.
The men were allowed into the state prison after saying they were there for a prisoner transfer, officials said.
Some 40 guards and administrators who were on duty at the time are in custody, Zacatecas Governor Amalia Garcia told a news conference.
“There is evidence that the guards and prison authorities were accomplices,” he said.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has staked his presidency on crushing drug gangs that killed 6,300 people last year across the nation. The United States is increasingly alarmed by the violence, fearing it could spill across the border.
Zacatecas has so far seen little of the drug-related violence that has rocked other northern states.
Garcia said state and federal police along with the army were searching for the prisoners. Earlier reports had said 59 inmates escaped.
This is simply unimaginable in any semi-intact nation. An ENTIRE prison staff appears to have been bribed to lay down for a jail break, warden, guards, the whole nine yards. And the bad guys arrived in 10 vehicles and a helicopter? This is a level of security that a head of state might get.
It’s getting harder and harder to pretend that Mexico is just another nation that happens to be on our border. Its government is failing in the most basic ways and at its most basic functions. What will the USA do as it becomes more and more obvious that Mexico is on the verge of becoming a North American Somalia, or Sudan? Oh, the local issues are different… and yet, they’re the same, with warlords, a vulnerable civilian populace, and a weak government with a corrupt military. Forget Somalia and Sudan; this is starting to sound like Pakistan. Fortunately, Mexico doesn’t have nukes that can fall into the hands of the warlords….