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The Secretary of Public Security for Zacatecas announced that the cartel which caused the violence at Cieneguillas prison just days ago was a “group from Sinaloa.” 

Sinaloa Cartel Responsible for the Violence at Cieneguillas

As previously covered here, on Saturday, December 4, there was an escape attempt at Cieneguillas prison, located in the state of Zacatecas, which led to riots inside the facility and narco roadblocks outside. 

Cieneguillas state prison is located near Francisco Madero highway, in the municipality of Zacatecas, in the state of the same name. The prison is about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) outside of the city of Zacatecas, the largest city within the state. 

The next day, on December 5, Adolfo Marín Marín, the Secretary of Public Security, spoke to reporters and told them that the cause of the violence was “a group from Sinaloa that was trying to escape,” clearly referring to the Sinaloa Cartel (Cártel de Sinaloa, CDS).

In the video, Secretary Marín Marín is seen answering a reporter, saying that it
was “el grupo del Sinaloa” who tried to break an inmate out. Video Source: La Voz del Pueblo

CDS is one of the two major forces within the state of Zacatecas, the other being their rival, the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). Both groups send some of their own fighters to the state, in addition to franchising local cartel groups, which often have distant roots in the Gulf Cartel (Cártel del Golfo, CDG) or Los Zetas. 

Timeline of Events

Secretary Marín also gave reporters new details about the timeline of events. According to Marín, the incident began on December 4, 2022. At approximately 7:00 pm, CDS hitmen rammed a large truck into a wire fence which surrounded Cieneguillas prison. 

The hitmen were allegedly trying to create an opening in the security fences that would enable a large group of inmates to escape. The social media account La Voz del Pueblo posted a photo alleged to depict the hitmen’s truck, shown above.

Zeta Tijuana writes that the hitmen’s truck was successful in penetrating the first layer of wire fencing, however, as it moved forward, it fell into a ditch and became stuck. 

Inmates quickly got word that a large truck was being used to create a hole in the prison walls, which led to a riot inside the facility. 

During the riot, some inmates were likely attempting to make their way to the location of the truck, while others may have been trying to kill rival prisoners so that they could not escape. 

At the same time, CDS hitmen created narco road blockades by flagging down vehicles, forcing the drivers out at gunpoint, and then setting fire to their vehicle at key road access points on the Zacatecas-Aguascalientes and Fresnillo-Jerez highways.  

On a highway in Cuauhtémoc, more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the prison, a tractor-trailer was burned, blocking the roadway. Meanwhile, on a highway in Morfín Chávez, more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of the prison, a toll booth and several vehicles were burned. 

Their blockades attempted to block the path of law enforcement and military personnel who might be sent to help the prison guards in regaining control of the facility. 

Secretary of federal Public Security, Rosa Icela Rodríguez, highlighted a secondary purpose of the blockade creators when she described them as “distracters”, who forced authorities to split up their personnel in order to deal with the blockades. 

Despite their efforts, Zacatecas authorities say they were able to control the riot within the prison. No inmates escaped the facility. No inmates were killed in the prison riot directly, however one inmate did die indirectly. His cause of death was a heart attack, likely due to the panic caused by the incident. 

Inmates Who Tried To Escape Will Be Transferred

Secretary Icela Rodríguez said that the inmates who tried to escape will be transferred to other prisons, presumably to prevent future breakout attempts. 

Unlike Secretary Marín, Rodríguez refused to give out details about the cartel affiliations of anyone involved. She said that the breakout was attempted due to “a dispute between these criminal groups – exactly which groups I can’t say,” adding “I can’t tell you: it was such and such a group. But there are at least two large groups that may have arrived [in the prison] lately.”

Secretary Marín blamed the riot and escape attempt on overcrowding in the prison, and more specifically the fact that the state prison has been forced to hold a number of inmates with federal charges.

He stated that he thought it was necessary to continue transferring all federal inmates to federal prisons because those facilities were higher security and more equipped to handle escape attempts. 

He also implied that the upcoming transfer of a number of inmates to federal facilities may have been the cause of the escape attempt and riot. 

This event comes on the heels of another incident of cartel violence in Zacatecas. 

On December 04, Judge Roberto Elías Martínez was shot to death by a gunman as he was leaving his home in Guadalupe, Zacatecas. The judge was assigned to the Rio Grande prison, a different penitentiary in Zacatecas. For more details, please see this previous story.

Before that, on November 24, 2022, José Silvestre Urzúa Padilla, a general in charge of a unit in the National Guard was killed in Pinos, Zacatecas. 

Sources: Official Statement by the State Peacebuilding Table, Proceso, El Financiero, El Sol de Zacatecas, Zacatecas Online, Zeta Tijuana