The Zetas cartel turned a Mexican prison into a death camp

(VICE NEWS) — Members of the notorious Zetas drug cartel turned the prison where they were being held in northern Mexico into a death camp where they tortured and killed around 150 people, and then incinerated the bodies or dissolved them in acid, the authorities say.

José Ángel Herrera, the chief prosecutor for cases of disappeared people in the state of Coahuila, made the allegations on Wednesday while announcing warrants to arrest five of the prisoners allegedly involved — at least some of whom are still behind bars.

Herrera said that the investigation refers to the period between 2009 and 2012 when the Zetas had near complete control of the prison near the city of Piedras Negras, just over the border from Eagle Pass in Texas.

He said this week’s arrests for the atrocities allegedly committed in the prison relate to the cases of the first seven disappeared people who investigators believe they have confirmed were among the victims. That proof, however, relies primarily on information from dozens of interviews with imprisoned witnesses and some of those involved, rather than on physical evidence.

According to José Juan Morales, spokesman for the investigation, the Zetas were allowed to leave the Piedras Negras prison at night to kidnap their victims, sometimes wearing fake police and army uniforms.

The remains of those killed were then, the investigation found, dumped in the nearby San Rodrigo river and in the Rio Bravo estuary.

But while the authorities say they have found bones in the river, they add that these are in such a bad state that it has not been possible to identify whether they came from the prison, or belonged to any of those who might have died there.

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