On June 20, 2023, a grisly riot broke out in a Honduran women’s prison in Tamara, 30 miles from the capital Tegucigalpa. It started when rival gang members from a different cellblock took keys from guards and locked down the area. The marauders then shot into the cellblock using contraband weapons that included 18 pistols, an assault rifle and two machine pistols.
They also carried machetes which they used to brutally hack at their victims. The gang members then locked their enemies in their cells, doused them with flammable liquid and set them on fire. Of the 46 victims, 26 died by being burned alive. The rest were either shot or stabbed to death. At least seven were treated at a nearby hospital.
Honduras was also the location of the worst prison disaster in a century when a 2012 fire at the Comayuga jail killed 361 prisoners, more than half of those held there. [See: PLN, July 2013, p. 52.] One woman waiting for news of a friend held in the doomed Cell Block One in the Tamara prison said, “She told me the last time I saw her on Sunday that the (Barrio) 18 people had threatened them, that they were going to kill them if they didn’t turn over a relative.”
Relatives said the deceased prisoners were threatened for weeks by members of the vicious Barrio 18 gang. Also known as the 18th Street Gang, it is a rival to MS-13 and one of the largest youth gangs in the Western Hemisphere. Experts say that Barrio 18 poses the greatest threats in Central American nations that have weak governments, such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Pres. Xiomara Castro called the slaying “monstrous,” immediately firing Security Minister Ramón Sabillón. However, Castro failed to explain how prison gang members could get their hands on weapons and how they could freely roam about the prison, nor how it was that not a single guard was injured in the melee.
“Obviously, there must have been human failures,” admitted Juan López Rochez, Chief of Operations for the National Police. “We are investigating all the employees at the center.”
Sources: AP News, CBS News, Insight Crime
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