San Salvador Prison Riot Leaves at Least 26 Dead

August 20, 2004

SAN SALVADOR – At least 26prisoners died and 25 were injured in afight Wednesday between young gangmembers and criminals in the overcrowdedprison of La Esperanza, 6 kilometersnorth of San Salvador, authoritiessaid.The riot started around 10 a.m.when, according to authorities, membersof the gang Mara 18 – the mostdangerous gang in the country – facedoff with other prisoners, after whichguards intervened.The majority of deaths were causedby the explosions of homemadegrenades, said prosecutor Bonifacio DeLeón, although police did not rule outknife wounds as well.In one of the wings, 26 cadaverswere collected, which still had to beidentified by forensic analysts whoattended to the emergency.The Salvadoran prison continued tobe heavily guarded, while hundreds offamilies of the prisoners demandedinformation.“THIS is a serious situation and theprosecutor’s office had said that it wasnot a good idea to have common prisonerswith gang members,” said the governmentattorney for the defense ofhuman rights, Beatrice Alamanni, whowent to the prison to evaluate thetragedy.The attorney said in the majority ofprison violence, the protagonists aregang members whose detentions haveincreased with the government planMano Dura (Hard Hand), implementedin July 2003.Salvadoran prisons have beendenounced by the Inter-AmericanHuman Rights Comission.La Esperanza prison, consideredmaximum security, has a capacity for800 prisoners, but as of August 16 had apopulation of 3,194.The 21 penitentiaries of El Salvadorhold a population of 12,117, althoughtheir capacity is only 7,312.

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