140 inmates escape Mexican prison

Dec. 18, 2010 at 12:35 AM

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- At least 140 prisoners were on the loose Friday in northern Mexico after breaking out of a prison in Nuevo Laredo, authorities said.

The mass escape occurred Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported. It was the third this year in Tamaulipas, a state that has become a stronghold for the Gulf Cartel.

Antonio Garza Garcia, the provincial public safety secretary, said the inmates are believed to have escaped through service entrances, probably with assistance from prison employees. In an interview with a radio station, he said 58 of the fugitives faced federal charges like drug trafficking or weapons offenses and others were held on state charges.

"The absence of effective measures of control and oversight by local authorities is deplorable, and has generated frequent escapes from prisons, putting the safety of communities at risk," the federal Interior Ministry said in a statement.

President Felipe Calderon's attempt to rein in drug cartels has crowded Mexico's prisons. The federal system holds 12,450 inmates, quadruple the number in 2006.

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