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19 inmates tunnel out of Guatemala prison

Nineteen inmates tunneled their way out of one of Guatemala’s most notorious prisons Saturday, authorities said.
/ Source: Reuters

Nineteen inmates tunneled their way out of one of Guatemala’s most notorious prisons Saturday, authorities said.

The escapees included murders and kidnappers serving 50-year sentences at the prison in the town of Escuintla.

“We have already alerted all of the country’s border posts to prevent them from escaping,” Interior Minister Carlos Vielmann told a radio station.

In June 2001, more than 70 inmates escaped from the prison during a gun battle in which three people died.

The crumbling former army fort known by inmates as “The Hole,” or “Little Hell,” is infamous for its conditions. Inmates sleep up to 40 at a time in dank cells measuring 30 square yards, many of them on bare floors.

Most of the prisoners are members of violent street gangs, or “maras,” that have spread across Central America.

A feud between rival gangs has killed at least 50 people across Guatemala since August, including 18 in an attack with grenades, guns and knives in the Escuintla prison.