Some of Mexico’s most notorious crime bosses have signed a petition complaining of human rights abuses in the country’s only “supermax” rated federal prison, though whether it will draw a significant response while the government remains rocked by crimes against law abiding citizens remains to be seen.
Local news site Nayaritenlinea.mx published a petition which appears to contain the signatures of 138 inmates including infamous Mexican drug lords such as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Edgar Valdez Villareal, alias “La Barbie,” and Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo.
According to the document, inmates at El Altiplano, situated in the state of Mexico, live in overcrowded cells, eat poor food, commonly develop skin and respiratory problems due to unsanitary conditions and suffer insufficient medical and social rehabilitation services. Additionally, visiting family members are physically and verbally abused by prison guards and conjugal visit rooms are of poor quality.
The maximum security prison also suffers from rampant corruption and oppression, all overseen by prison director Librado Carmona Garcia, who provides perks to inmates for large amounts of money, the petition claimed.
Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) received the document and said it will investigate further. CNDH did not comment on the authenticity of the document’s signatures or the veracity of its claims.
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The Mexican penal system is often associated with horrendous conditions, and inhumane conditions have been highlighted by independent agencies for a long time, so the claims of human rights abuses at El Altiplano are entirely plausible. Still, there are reasons to question the authenticity of the document and its claims.
Prison authorities have previously said top drug lords like El Chapo and La Barbie are kept in total isolation and the petition itself said inmates are only allowed one hour a day out of their cells. Such restrictions call into question how more than 100 inmates would be able to organize and circulate a petition amongst themselves.
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On the other hand, inmates, including the drug lords mentioned in the most recent petition, reportedly participated in a hunger strike in 2014, protesting similar complaints of poor prison conditions. Additionally the fact that the CNDH is willing to investigate further appears to lend some credence to the petition’s authenticity.
However, with President Enrique Peña Nieto still on the ropes over citizen security and corruption in the wake of the kidnap and disappearance of 43 students with local police collusion in September 2014, it appears unlikely prisoner welfare will top the government’s list of priorities any time soon.