Mexico City – A Mexican judge has ordered the former warden of a penitentiary where 61 inmates escaped earlier this month to stand trial for his alleged role in the prison break.
The judge in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas issued formal detention orders against the ex-warden of the prison in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Alfonso Daniel Ramirez, ex-coordinator Juan Lorenzo de la Cruz and five guards, two of them women.
Investigators say the 61 inmates who escaped - 21 of whom were sentenced or held on federal charges - presumably made their way out through a tunnel on the facility's north side after a fight in which seven prisoners were killed.
The federal government says more than 400 inmates escaped from Tamaulipas prisons between January 2010 and March of this year due to corruption in the prison system in that state, which has been beset in recent years by turf battles pitting the Los Zetas and Gulf cartels.
Over the past few weeks, more than 1,000 soldiers have been deployed to Tamaulipas to support local, state and municipal authorities in their struggle against organized crime.
After the July 15 break-out, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, or Fedecaco, said the federal government is to blame for mass prison escapes in Mexico because it allows severe overcrowding to persist.
It also noted that the prisons in Tamaulipas are holding more than 2,000 dangerous inmates arrested on federal charges who belong to drug cartels and other organized crime groups.
The interior secretary of Tamaulipas, Morelos Canseco, told reporters last week that prison overcrowding is not a serious problem in the state, saying it "barely exceeds 3 percent."
But he did call on the national government to move some 700 inmates out of Tamaulipas penitentiaries and into federal prisons, adding that 300 prisoners who have been sentenced for federal crimes and 400 others still awaiting a court ruling in their cases have been identified.
Mexico's drug cartels sometimes engineer mass prison breaks in response to the killings and arrests of their gunmen.