40 people die in a Ciudad Juárez detention centre fire, after guards refused to open the doors
40 people died after a fire broke out in a detention centre in Mexico. Prison guards refused to unlock the doors, leaving them to die. Mexican authorities were holding them in custody in Ciudad Juárez, near the US border.
The fire broke out on Monday 27 March. Those killed were from Guatemala, Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia, and Ecuador. 37 people died on the scene, and three died later in hospital.
The guards just walked away
US left-wing news outlet Democracy Now described how guards did nothing to help those trapped. It wrote:
Surveillance video from the jail shows guards walking away as flames spread inside the jail cells, making no effort to open the jail cells or help the migrants who were trapped.
Democracy Now interviewed a Venezuelan man, Raniel Murillo, who was part of a crowd of protesters outside the jail. He said:
To all of those people who died, the guards could have opened the gates to let them out, because there was only a few meters between the gate that separated them from the migration officers. They didn’t open the gate, leaving them locked in. The fire advanced, and they didn’t leave. The guards didn’t help them, because they didn’t feel like it. The guards treat you badly.
Juan Montes told Vice News that authorities had detained him at the centre on Monday. However, they had released him at 6pm because he has children. He said that there were at least 100 people “locked inside the cell”.
Mexico: the state blames the prisoners
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador alleged that prisoners set fire to their mattresses in protest at their conditions. However, the detainees have challenged the government’s narrative.
Katiusca Márquez told Vice News:
They take everything. How would someone enter with a lighter?
Katiusca said that immigration authorities abducted her and her whole family from the streets of Ciudad Juárez on 27 March. They took them all to the detention centre. Authorities had not released her brother, and she was waiting to find out what happened to him.
Venezuelan migrant Orlando Ramos explained to Vice News:
The Mexican government said that we started the fire. But they don’t ask why or what was happening before. They only listen to us when we die. But they never ask what we need, if we are doing okay, whether we are hungry,
The Mexican president may be trying to blame the people he has locked up, but the state’s carceral policies killed these 40 people. Those who refused to help them are to blame for their deaths, along with the racist border regime upheld by the governments of Mexico and the US.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/CBP photography, resized to 770*403
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