(Updates with comments from governor in the fourth paragraph)
Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Thirty inmates escaped from a prison in northern Mexico yesterday under cover of a riot between rival gang members that left 44 prisoners dead, government officials said.
Officials at the Apodaca jail, including the director and 18 guards, have been suspended and are under investigation for possible collusion in the escape, Rodrigo Medina, governor of Nuevo Leon state, said at a press conference today in Monterrey.
Killings linked to drug cartels have soared since President Felipe Calderon sent troops to fight crime groups when he took office in December 2006. Drug-related slayings totaled 47,515 from December 2006 through September 2011, according to the federal government. Calderon’s crackdown has led to thousands of arrests, with cartel rivalries within prisons sparking deadly riots in various states.
“Our great achievements in capturing criminals have led to our prisons growing overcrowded,” Medina said, calling for the transfer of some prisoners from the Apodaca jail.
The escape probably couldn’t have worked without the help of officials within the prison, he said.
Nuevo Leon is offering as much as 10 million pesos ($788,000) for information on the escaped prisoners, who may have been members of the Zetas cartel, state officials said today. The dead appeared to be members of the rival Gulf Cartel, the officials said.
--Editor: Philip Sanders
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