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Five massacres and a sea of ​​blood: the dark history of Cereso 3 in Ciudad Juárez

El Cereso No. 3 in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, added a new chapter to its tragic history of attacks on January 1.  (Darkroom)
El Cereso No. 3 in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, added a new chapter to its tragic history of attacks on January 1. (Darkroom)

The violence did not let up Juarez CityChihuahua, because on the first day of the year there was a riot that killed 14 people and caused injuries to at least a dozen individuals.

With this tragic event, the Social Reintegration Center (Ceresus) No. 3located between the desert and the International Airport of the border city, recorded the fifth massacre in the last 14 years.

Disputes between criminal groups for control of the plaza have been the main reason for these bloody episodes, since Ciudad Juárez is a key point for drug trafficking networks to the United States.

State prison No. 3 in Ciudad Juárez was the last of the entity to receive certification from the American Correctional Association (ACA). It obtained this recognition in 2014, after a remodeling and having met 100% of the requirements.

It was 06:27 in the morning of March 4, 2009 when, at the end of the conjugal visit, a group of inmates belonging to the gang of The Aztecs —armed wing of Juarez cartel— went to the maximum security area of ​​the prison, where members of The Mexicles Y Killer Artistscells faithful at that time to the Sinaloa cartel.

With sharp objects and magic firearms (that is, homemade), the gang members threatened the guards and entered the cells of their rivals. According to Óscar Hermosillo, the prison director at the time, Los Aztecas managed to take the keys to the high security area from the officers.

The balance of that atrocious aggression was 20 inmates killed and seven wounded. It was the first recorded attack inside the walls of Cereso No. 3, which had only been in operation for four years.

The Cereso of Ciudad Juárez registered its first massacre in March 2009. (CUARTOSCURO)
The Cereso of Ciudad Juárez registered its first massacre in March 2009. (CUARTOSCURO)

While elements of the extinct Federal Preventive Police arrived, more than 100 inmates climbed to the roof of the prison modules. More than two hours later, around nine in the morning, 100 PF agents sprayed tear gas at the inmates to disperse them. It was only then that they managed to get inside and found the brutal scene.

The assistance of the Mexican Army was necessary to contain the prisoners and stop the fray. Around 10 in the morning, the authorities managed to control the situation.

Regarding the confrontation that occurred on the night of Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 July 2011 there are multiple versions. Some pointed to a possible fight between members of the Juárez and Sinaloa cartels over control of the sale of drugs inside the prison.

Other reports indicated that everything would have been triggered by a mass escape attempt by members of Artistas Asesinos. What the reports agree on is that, after more than six hours of terror, 17 inmates were killed and 150 were injured.

Given the contradictions between the official versions, relatives of the 17 murdered inmates accused the local and federal authorities of having executed the inmates.  (DARKROOM)
Given the contradictions between the official versions, relatives of the 17 murdered inmates accused the local and federal authorities of having executed the inmates. (DARKROOM)

Information from local media, taken up by Processhighlighted that there were serious omissions on the part of the prison’s management and surveillance personnel, since the weapons used for the multiple homicide were already in the possession of the aggressors. That is, they were not taken from the custodians.

“They all died from bullets, we have the presence of six weapons of different caliber, an R-15 which was already secured, and a .223, .9 millimeter, .38, 12-gauge shotgun, plus a gas grenade”, explained former prosecutor Jorge González Nicolás in an interview.

In addition, by reconstructing the events based on testimonies and surveillance camera videos, it was found that there were several open doors in the Cereso and that in the “preventive prison” area, where the massacre occurred, there were more people than they should have been.

On November 5, 2019, a search operation was carried out inside the prison that was the trigger for the criminal groups to spread horror throughout the city for several days.

Aerial views of the prison in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.  (Darkroom)
Aerial views of the prison in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. (Darkroom)

The presence of at least 850 elements from the three levels of government, including the National Guard, sparked a violent reaction from the faction of The Mexicles. ten people killedsix injured civilians, 15 vehicles set on fire and an armed attack on a government building was the balance of the first day of violence.

At least 15 attacks were recorded in less than ten hours. After four days, the balance was 26 murders and up to 37 vehicles on fire, including public transport units.

In the same 2019, the State Human Rights Commission (ECHR) from Chihuahua acknowledged that criminal groups are the ones who control the Juárez prison. In its Diagnosis of the Penitentiary, Social Reintegration and Preventive System, it was established that the inmates have in their possession the access keys to different areas of the prison.

August 11 was marked as one of the most violent days for the border city. Presumably, the chaos unleashed that day would have been ordered by Ernesto Alfredo Pinon de la Cruz, the netleader of Los Mexicles, in an attempt to prevent his transfer to a federal prison.

Ciudad Juárez was involved in a curtain of fire after the riot in the local prison on August 11, 2022. (REUTERS / José Luis González)
Ciudad Juárez was involved in a curtain of fire after the riot in the local prison on August 11, 2022. (REUTERS / José Luis González)

It all started with a direct attack by Los Mexicles towards members of The Chapos inside Cereso No. 3. Until that day, it was thought that both criminal cells remained faithful to the Sinaloa cartelbut the aggression revealed a possible change in the inclinations of the Net and his subordinates.

Specialists on the subject even pointed out a possible alliance of these with The Aztecs to face the group shorty Guzman and the May Zambada.

As a result of the confrontation inside the prison, three inmates lost their lives. Subsequently, a series of shootings, arson and even explosive detonations in the city resulted in the death of eight other people. The final balance of that bloody day was 11 people killed and at least 20 injured.

During family visiting hours on January 1, 2023, an armed commando attacked Cereso No. 3 and caused a brawl in which 24 inmates managed to escape, according to the official count.

With 17 long weapons and four short weapons, presumed members of Los Mexicles broke into the prison and killed 10 officers. During the confrontation, four inmates also lost their lives.

Among the criminals who would have escaped from the Ciudad Juárez prison, according to reports confirmed by former governor Javier Corral, would be the netidentified as one of the most dangerous generators of violence in the region.

This macabre start to the year added another chapter to the history of massacres in which this prison has been involved.

KEEP READING:

Who is ‘El Neto, the “heartless” boss of Los Mexicles who escaped from the Chihuahua prison
The Prosecutor’s Office confirmed the balance of 14 dead and 24 inmates escaped from the Chihuahua prison after an attack by an armed commando

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