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Prison Break Epitomizes Mexican Drug War Woes

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Officials in Mexico are offering a reward of nearly $1 million for the capture of 30 inmates who broke out of a prison in the northern state of Nuevo Leon on Sunday.

The governor says the inmates staged a riot, during which 44 people died, to create a diversion for their escape.

It was a jail break that epitomized the Mexican drug war: Rival gang members brutally killed each other, corrupt public officials looked the other way, and dangerous criminals went free.

Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz, in a news conference Monday, said all 30 of the inmates who escaped are members of the Zetas, and almost all the dead were members of the Gulf cartel.

The riot broke out at 2 a.m. at the Apodaca penitentiary just outside the industrial city of Monterrey.

After about two hours, federal police and Mexican soldiers finally regained control of the building.

Given the timing and manner in which the riot took place, Medina said, it appears some prison authorities were involved in the plot. He suspended the warden along with two of his top deputies and 18 guards.

Medina blamed the drug war for extreme overcrowding at the prison. The facility was at 180 percent of capacity when the violence erupted.

Among the fugitives is Oscar Manuel Bernal Soriano, who is known as el Arana, or the Spider. Bernal, the former head of the Zetas in Monterrey, was serving time for kidnapping soldiers and assassinating a local police chief.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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