A friendly New Year's Eve soccer match between teams representing two rival cartels in a Mexican prison turned into a bloodbath after a controversial tackle escalated into a gun fight.
For over a decade, Cieneguillas, a medium-security prison in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, has been home to hundreds of dangerous criminals representing no less than six of Mexico's main drug cartels. In an attempt to relieve the pressure of the rivalries between these criminal organizations, the prison leadership authorized a soccer game between teams representing Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, on New Year's Eve, but what was meant to be a friendly celebration abruptly turned into a deadly shootout, and not the penalty kind.
After a whole day of being allowed to receive visits from their families, inmates gathered in the Cieneguillas prison yard for the highly anticipated soccer match between members of Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel. Local news sources reported that everything was going well until a controversial tackle in the penalty box of one of the teams got some inmates so riled up that they took out their guns ans tarted shooting their rivals. No one knows exactly how the guns got into the prison, but apparently some of the shooters sported long-barreled weapons as well.
It took prison staff and National Guard forces over three hours to quell the prison riot which left 16 people dead and another five seriously wounded. A total of four firearms were seized during the subsequent checks, as well as several knives, hammers and mobile phones.
Just two days after the bloody soccer match, Cieneguillas was once again rocked by violence as a member of the Gulf Cartel was murdered by his own gang, allegedly for treason. The prison has long been seen as a red flag in Mexico's penitentiary system, but authorities are struggling to keep the peace among the over 1,000 members inmates, including many members of rival criminal organizations.