Prison Break Prompts Manhunt Near U.S. Border

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 18 2012 2:04 PM

Mexican Prison Break Prompts Manhunt Near U.S. Border

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In a scene more reminiscent of a failed NBC pilot than real life, a manhunt is underway along the Mexican border for 132 escaped convicts. 

According to local officials, the now-free inmates fled through a tunnel dug out from an old carpentry workshop. The 4-foot-wide escape route was 23-feet-long, and connected the workshop to the complex’s outer fence. The prisoners managed to cut through the fence and disappear into the great Mexican wilderness with suspiciously little trouble.

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Here’s Reuters with some more background:

"Corrupt prison officials may have helped the inmates escape, said Jorge Luis Moran, chief of public security in Coahuila, adding that U.S. authorities had been alerted to help capture the fugitives if they try to cross the border. The jailbreak is a reminder of the challenges that await Enrique Pena Nieto, the incoming president, who has pledged to reduce crime in the country after six years of increased gang-related violence under President Felipe Calderon.
"Many of Mexico's prisons are overcrowded and struggle to counter the influence of criminal gangs that can use their financial muscle to corrupt those in charge. Ramos said that the state government of Coahuila was offering a reward of 200,000 pesos ($15,700) for information leading to the capture of each fugitive." 

The prison is located in Pieras Negras, just two miles from the U.S. border. According to BBC News, the prison’s director and two other workers are currently being held in connection to the incident. In addition to local police, the Mexican government has dispatched a special forces unit to assist in the hunt.

The state of Coahuila, where the prison is located, has also been the site of wide-spread violence as a result of the ongoing war between the Los Zetas and Sinaloa cartels. It is unclear at this point if there is a connection between the drug feuds and the jailbreak.

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate video blogger.