Mexico City – Ten inmates escaped in Mexico's
Caribbean beach resort of Cancun late on Tuesday by jumping the prison wall, in
the latest jailbreak to hit the country's scandal-plagued penitentiary system.
The inmates beat a guard before jumping the wall
and, according to witnesses, at least three of them fled in a taxi in which
they changed their clothes, the Quintana Roo state government said in a
"Personnel from all of the security agencies
of the state are conducting an intense and broad operation to catch the
prisoners," state Governor Roberto Borge said.
A state public security spokesperson said on
condition of anonymity that the escape took place at around 21:10 and that some
of the inmates are considered "highly dangerous."
The city is a popular destination for American
tourists but the prison is away from the hotel district. It is located in a
densely populated residential area, with one wall facing a busy road.
The government said security was stepped up around
the prison as well as on highways and at taxi stands and bus stations.
Local media reported that the convicts belong to
two drug gangs and that they took advantage of confusion during a prison fight
Two other prisoners escaped from the Cancun
penitentiary in October 2015 while a fight left four injured in June.
But Cancun has been spared from the drug cartel
violence that has plagued other parts of the country.
Mexican prisons are notoriously overcrowded, violent
and often controlled by gangs.
A report by the National Human Rights Commission
found that inmates govern themselves in 71 state prisons across the country.
In February, 49 inmates were killed in a massive
brawl in the northern city of Monterrey.
Mass prison breaks are not uncommon.
Last month, three inmates escaped during a riot and
fire in a prison just outside Mexico City that left several prisoners and
police officers injured.
The biggest escape took place in September 2012 in
a prison in the northern border town of Piedras Negras, when 131 inmates bolted
through the front door.
In November 2013, seven inmates escaped from a
prison in the northern state of Tamaulipas after six prisoners were killed
during a fight.
But the most famous jailbreak was perpetrated by
one man, Sinaloa drug cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who
escaped from the country's top security prison near Mexico City in July 2015
through a 1.5km tunnel built by his henchmen.
Guzman had previously escaped from another prison
in 2001, reportedly by hiding in a laundry cart.
He was recaptured in January.