National Guard Head Was Warned of Imminent Chihuahua Jail Break

Mexican General Luis Rodríguez Bucio, undersecretary of public security and former head of Mexico’s National Guard. Photo:


Mexico’s new Undersecretary of Public Security Luis Rodríguez Bucio was warned in both April and May — when he was still the head the the country’s National Guard (GN) — about the growing crisis within the Chihuahua prison system and the threat of a possible violent rescue of inmates in the Ciudad Juárez prison, according to documents revealed by the Mexican hacked government exposé Guacamaya Leaks.

On Jan. 1, the Cereso prison in that northern border city suffered a major attack and prison break that resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people — including security guards — and the escape of 30 inmates.

According to three documents from the state government of Chihuahua released by Guacamaya Leaks, of which at least two were addressed to the military general, the administration of leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) knew about the precarious conditions of the state prisons and the need to transfer dangerous prisoners more than eight months prior to the Cereso attack.

The three documents were signed by Luis Alfonso Harris, former director general of the state penitentiary system, who was dismissed on Wednesday, Jan. 11, after the violent escape.

On April 1, 2022, Harris sent an official letter to the Commissioner of the Prevention and Social Rehabilitation Body of the Federal Security Secretariat, José Ángel Ávila, making an “extra urgent” request to transfer almost 300 inmates to federal prisons.

Harris provided specific information on each of these inmates, such as criminal group, crimes and procedural situation, adding that they posed a risk to the physical integrity and governance of Chihuahua prisons, according to the Guacamaya Leaks documents.

He also warned that the penitentiary centers had a deficient state of operational force in relation to the penitentiary population, to the extent that there was just one custodian per 65 inmates.

“They present problems with the figure of authority, seeking to circumvent the security of the prison in which they are located, and thus be able to enter prohibited objects and substances. In addition, leaders of criminal groups and gangs have been identified,” he stated.

On April 8, Harris sent Rodríguez Bucio a follow-up letter in which he made an “extra urgent” request to transfer the prisoner Antonio Leonel, alias “El Chato,” from the Cereso to a federal prison.

In the letter, Harris said that he had previously notified the now-undersecretary that, according to information from internal intelligence, threats had been made by the Sinaloa Cartel, to which El Chato belongs, to remove him from the prison.

“The presence of defendants and sentenced persons who maintain links with criminal organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel, La Empresa, Aztecas, Mexicles, La Línea, Los Paisas, Sureños and Artistas Asesinos has been identified,” Harris reported to the general.

The list also included several inmates who escaped from the Cereso on Jan. 1, such as David Francisco Ríos Emiliano, from the Los Mexicles gang, considered to one of the bloodiest gangs in the state.

Also on that list was José Osvaldo Espinoza Navarro, alias “El Pecas,” from that same criminal group.

Harris said that “his permanence in the Chihuahua penitentiary centers of this entity implies a risk to their physical security and, therefore, the peace, security and governance of the penitentiary centers of the state of Chihuahua are being violated.”

“The foregoing, in response to the various works of intelligence that have been carried out in this regard, represent an imminent risk, not only for public safety and citizen security, but also for the integrity of members of police forces, proving that they require special security measures,” Harris wrote.

In his letter, Harris likewise warned that there was a “latent risk of confrontations and/or attacks inside and outside state prisons, due to the presence of antagonistic criminal groups and the increase in violent incidents.”

“These gangs or criminal groups (inside the prisons) are synonymous with violence, since they are the main perpetrators of high-impact crimes. A series of incidents have already occurred that go against the regulatory norm,” he said.

The Guacamaya Leaks is a collection of over 4 million confidential Mexican government documents that were released in early October by a group of national hackers exposing how the administration of López Obrador has been monitoring journalists using Israeli Pegasus spyware and how the military under his regime sold arms to drug cartels.

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