For Ernesto Alberto Piñón de la Cruz, alias El Neto, his freedom lasted just five days. The leader of the criminal group Los Mexicles escaped on Sunday from a federal prison in Ciudad Juárez, in Chihuahua, after organizing a riot inside the prison, in which 17 people died and thirty escaped. In the early hours of this Thursday, a security operation has located him at an address in the Los Aztecas neighborhood, to the west of the city. When he was going to be arrested, a shootout broke out that ended with El Neto seriously injured, according to what the State Government has reported. He died when he was transferred to the Prosecutor’s Office. The authorities have not reported any more casualties in the confrontation.
The brutal escape of the Neto del Cereso 3 from Juárez put the border city on alert. Since then, more than a thousand agents of the Army, National Guard and state police have been combing the streets, bus stations, the airport and customs crossings through which thousands of people go to the United States every day. The offender had not gone far. He was located in a house between Toltecas and Tzetzales streets, after “48 hours of work”, by the operation in charge of hunting him down.
The first shots were fired at that first address before being able to capture him, according to the government’s version. El Neto managed to flee in a vehicle, but “impacted against a gas station.” “In that place he fired at the forces of order, being seriously injured and later dying when he was transferred to the facilities of the Northern Zone District Attorney’s Office,” the official statement said. After the attack, the agents seized an armored BMW vehicle, eight long weapons and five technical vests. So far, no further information has been provided as to whether the other escaped prisoners have been located with the leader of the Mexicles.
Leak on New Year’s Day
Only six hours into the year 2023 had elapsed when the coordinated attacks began in Ciudad Juárez. They were small actions to mislead the police from the main objective, the assault on Cereso 3. At 7 in the morning the riot began. In jail they were forewarned: they had already tried to free El Neto in August with the same modus operadi. On Sunday, the head of the guards deployed his forces to control it, but the prisoners had weapons and killed 10 security officers. “They were attacked by the inmates,” Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said days later.
As chaos raged inside, it also came from outside. Around the prison armored vans with armed men approached and started shooting. Some bullets wounded relatives of the prisoners who were waiting for visits. The situation was not controlled until 10 in the morning when the military arrived. Until that happened, the criminals had already released El Neto and on the way almost thirty other prisoners had escaped.
The film leak revealed the danger that reigns in Mexican prisons, which, far from being safe places, have become, in many cases, farmhouses where the same criminals rule. El Neto, for example, was one of those prisoners “with VIP cells”, as Sandoval described them: from televisions and cell phones to safes. He was there since 2009, when he was imprisoned for crimes of kidnapping and homicide. He was then only 20 years old and had a history of blood behind him.
The riot that broke out last August in that same prison had the objective of freeing him, but even with the 11 dead they left behind, they did not succeed. There a fight broke out between the Mexicles and the Chapos, supposedly ordered by him. The previous governor of Chihuahua, PAN member Javier Corral, defined Neto as “the toughest and most soulless drug trafficker in the Mexicles criminal group”: “One of the generators of the greatest violence in the city since the prison, and now he returns to the streets”. However, his reign in freedom has not lasted long.
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