TEGUCIGALPA, (Reuters) – At least 13 people were killed in a prison fight in northern Honduras yesterday, spotlighting the country’s dysfunctional prison system just weeks after a fire in a different jail killed more than 300 inmates.
Wielding guns, knives and machetes, inmates fought in a jail in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city known for textile manufacturing and a high rate of gang violence. A fire broke out during the fight, burning two prisoners to death. Another was decapitated.
“There are 13 dead after the fight between rival criminal gangs for control over certain areas of the jail,” said the head of the local prosecutor’s office in San Pedro Sula Marleni Banegas.
Police and emergency workers entered the prison to quell the violence after members of the ‘paisas’ briefly took control of the complex and held fellow inmates hostage, police said.
Honduras has come under increasing pressure to fix its overcrowded prison system, which houses 13,000 inmates but only has the capacity for 7,000. More than half of those in jail have never been charged by a court.
Last month a jailhouse blaze in Comayagua, outside of the capital of Tegucigalpa, burned 360 prisoners alive inside their cells in one of the worst prison fires in Latin American history. Authorities said the fire was set accidentally when a cigarette ignited a mattress.