The incident occurred on Tuesday, June 20, in Tamara, Honduras, around 30 miles north-west of the capital, Tegucigalpa, and was confirmed by Yuri Mora, the spokesperson for the national police investigation agency.
The victims were found dead inside Centro Femenino de Adaptacion Social, a 900-person women’s penitentiary, with some having been burned alive and others shot, stabbed or beaten. Most died in a fire set in the cell of one of the gangs. At least seven women were hospitalized in Tegucigalpa with gunshot and stab wounds.
Honduran President Xiomara Castro reacted to the incident, expressing shock at the “monstrous murder” of the inmates. She attributed the violence to the influence of notorious street gangs in the prison. President Castro expressed solidarity with the affected families on Twitter and vowed to take “drastic measures” in response to the incident.
The violence reportedly broke out between members of rival gangs, Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), according to Delma Ordonez, president of an association for prisoners’ families, who spoke to Reuters. It was said that the incident was planned with the help of prison guards. Investigators will look into how machetes and automatic weapons were smuggled into the prison.
Families of the inmates gathered outside the prison seeking information on the welfare of their loved ones.
Julissa Villanueva, the head of the Honduran prison system, suggested that the riot was a backlash against recent efforts by the authorities to curb illegal activities in the prisons. Villanueva asserted in a televised address that the authorities would remain steadfast in their actions against organized crime.
This incident marks the deadliest occurrence in a female detention facility in the region since 2017. It highlights the longstanding issue of gang control and violence in Honduran prisons. In 2012, a fire in a prison in Comayagua, Honduras, claimed the lives of 361 inmates.