BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina has replaced its prisons chief and offered a reward worth about $89,000 for help capturing 11 dangerous inmates who tunneled their way out of a maximum-security prison in a Buenos Aires’ suburb.
Thirteen inmates escaped from the federal prison in Ezeiza early Tuesday by digging through solid concrete, and then cutting through four rows of fencing, officials said. By late Wednesday, two had been captured.
Most of the escaped inmates are Argentines, along with two Brazilians and a Paraguayan, and most were serving time for murder, armed robbery, kidnapping or bank robbery.
Prison system director Victor Hortel announced his resignation Tuesday, and 19 other prison guards and supervisors were put on leave pending an investigation.
Hortel said it was his responsibility to take the blame politically, but he took parting shots at prison guards and other officials, saying the escape couldn’t have happened without their help.
He told the pro-government newspaper Tiempo that the escape had to have been planned from within the prisons service by people who wanted to embarrass the government of President Cristina Fernandez. He alleged the penitentiary service still includes many people who sympathize with Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship and have sought to undermine the government because of its record of advocating for human rights.
Interior Minister Julio Alak prompted a fresh wave of controversy Wednesday by replacing Hortel with a former prisons chief, Alejandro Marambio, who has been accused by human rights activists of allowing inmate torture to increase under his previous watch.
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel said the presidency should look carefully at Marambio’s personnel file and be sure to avoid actions that have no place in a democracy.
“I believe these positions need to be filled by people who have a clear and clean career path and can guarantee that they’ll work with ethics and social responsibility,” he said in a radio interview.
Marambio sought to reassure his critics at a news conference Wednesday, saying that “security can’t be achieved with clubs, and this is the clear message of this government that we will try to represent.”
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