In Mexico: A Kidnapping, a Negotiation, then an ‘Escape’

A criminal group in Mexico reportedly kidnapped a prison director and his son to use as a bargaining chip for the release of two of the group’s members, a stark demonstration of the control criminal groups wield over the country’s prisons.

After kidnapping Prison Director Gerardo Cuevas Rojas and his son, a criminal group secured the release of two of its members imprisoned at the Social Reintegration Center (Cereso) of Tepeaca in the southeastern Puebla state in exchange for safely returning the prison director and his son, Zeta Magazine reported

Not all the media reported the event in the same way. El Sol del Puebla reported that the two inmates, Juan Carlos González Flores and Jaime Andrade Sánchez, “escaped” from the prison on October 23. And Puebla’s Secretary of Public Security (Secretaría Seguridad Pública — SSP) announced that the inmates had “escaped” the following day. 

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

But according to Zeta, Cereso Deputy Director Miriam Martínez Olmedo said she received a call from her boss’ cell phone on October 23. The prison director conveyed to his subordinate that he and his son had been kidnapped by a group of men. A man then took the phone and proceeded to tell Martínez Olmedo that if González Flores and Andrade Sánchez were not released, the prison director and his son would be tortured and killed, according to her account reported by Zeta. 

González Flores and Andrade Sánchez were subsequently provided with civilian clothes and escorted out of the prison by Martínez Olmedo herself, according to Zeta. After confirming their release, Cuevas Rojas and his son were released unharmed in Palmar de Brazo, about 30 miles east of Tepeaca. 

All of the officers involved in the two inmates’ release are subject to investigation, according to Zeta, including Martínez Olmedo, who Zeta says may have received three million pesos (around $150,000) for facilitating the escape. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

Mexican authorities have notoriously had a lack of control over the country’s prisons, and the latest escape serves as a stark reminder of how much control the country’s criminal groups can exert inside and outside prison walls. Indeed, a report from earlier this year found that criminal groups control 65 percent of state prisons in Mexico, which has lead to inmate-thrown parties and brutal acts of violence

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Prisons 

The Zetas criminal organization, which have a presence in Puebla, have proven to be the most adept at controlling Mexico’s penitentiaries. Authorities at the Piedras Negras prison in northern Coahuila state allegedly allowed the criminal group to use the prison as a “base of operations” where they murdered and disappeared an estimated 150 victims. And in Durango state, prison officials allegedly let Zetas members out of jail to commit murders, including the massacre of 17 people.