A recently-released video recorded in a maximum-security prison in Mexico shows inmates throwing a party, serving as a reminder of the authority wielded by criminal groups in the country's penitentiaries.
Mexican daily Milenio obtained a video of a party held in the maximum security prison of Puente Grande, in the state of Jalisco. The party was allegedly thrown by José Luis Gutiérrez Valencia, better known as "Don Chelo."
Don Chelo was arrested in January 2010 in Puerto Vallarta. At the time, authorities believed he was a member of the Sinaloa Cartel. But today, Don Chelo is suspected to control the Puente Grande penitentiary on behalf of the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG).
His daughter is the romantic partner of Rubén Oseguera, alias "El Menchito," the son of CJNG founder and leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias "El Mencho."
According to Milenio, the party took place sometime between December 2015 and March 2016. However, the video was only made public on May 9 this year. Don Chelo explicitly asked for the party to be filmed, so that he could later give copies of the footage to his guests.
The video shows Don Chelo surrounded by his alleged bodyguards, while prisoners dance and drink around him. The party featured a concert by a band known as Los Buchones de Culiacán, who in between songs hailed the CJNG and Don Chelo.
In a telling moment, Don Chelo says to his guests: "I'm the one who rules here. Ask for what you want, I'll make you sure you'll have it." (See video below)
InSight Crime Analysis
The video shot in Puente Grande is exemplary of the lack of control Mexican authorities have over the country's prisons, and the free reign inmates enjoy behind bars.
This is all the more troubling in the case of Puente Grande. The prison is a maximum-security facility, where some of the most dangerous criminals, including perhaps most notably the former leader of the Juárez Cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alias "El Viceroy," are detained. The fact that prisoners are able to throw a party like Don Chelo's speaks volumes of the state's inability to control penitentiaries, even those meant to host some of the biggest underworld figures.
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Puente Grande has a rather infamous record. Indeed, legendary drug lord and former head of the Sinaloa Cartel Joaquin Guzmán Loera, alias "El Chapo," escaped from the penitentiary in 2001 with the help of a corrupt guard who ended up becoming one of his closest associates, Dámaso López Núñez, alias "Licenciado." (Licenciado was arrested in Mexico earlier this month.)
While El Chapo was in prison, Licenciado allegedly helped him to create a riot squad known as "the Sinaloans," and made sure the drug boss could easily bribe other officers. The fact that no prison guards can be seen in the footage of Don Chelo's party suggests that very little has changed after almost two decades.