10 prison inmates escape in Mexico's latest jail break

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Ten inmates escaped in Mexico's Caribbean beach resort of Cancun late Tuesday (July 12) by jumping the prison wall, in the latest jailbreak to hit the country's scandal-plagued penitentiary system.

The inmates beat a guard before jumping the wall and, according to witnesses, at least three of them fled in a taxi in which they changed their clothes, the Quintana Roo state government said in a statement.

"Personnel from all of the security agencies of the state are conducting an intense and broad operation to catch the prisoners," state Governor Roberto Borge said.

A state public security spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity that the escape took place at around 9:10 pm and that some of the inmates are considered "highly dangerous." The city is a popular destination for American tourists but the prison is away from the hotel district. It is located in a densely populated residential area, with one wall facing a busy road.

The government said security was stepped up around the prison as well as on highways and at taxi stands and bus stations.

Local media reported that the convicts belong to two drug gangs and that they took advantage of confusion during a prison fight to escape.

Two other prisoners escaped from the Cancun penitentiary in October 2015 while a fight left four injured in June.

But Cancun has been spared from the drug cartel violence that has plagued other parts of the country.

Mexican prisons are notoriously overcrowded, violent and often controlled by gangs.

A report by the National Human Rights Commission found that inmates govern themselves in 71 state prisons across the country.

In February, 49 inmates were killed in a massive brawl in the northern city of Monterrey.

Mass prison breaks are not uncommon.

Last month, three inmates escaped during a riot and fire in a prison just outside Mexico City that left several prisoners and police officers injured.

The biggest escape took place in September 2012 in a prison in the northern border town of Piedras Negras, when 131 inmates bolted through the front door.

In November 2013, seven inmates escaped from a prison in the northern state of Tamaulipas after six prisoners were killed during a fight.

But the most famous jailbreak was perpetrated by one man, Sinaloa drug cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who escaped from the country's top security prison near Mexico City in July 2015 through a 1.5-km tunnel built by his henchmen.

Guzman had previously escaped from another prison in 2001, reportedly by hiding in a laundry cart.

He was recaptured in January.