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Officials: At least 141 inmates escape from Mexican prison

By the CNN Wire Staff
Inmates escaped through a service entrance for staff vehicles, according to a preliminary investigation.
Inmates escaped through a service entrance for staff vehicles, according to a preliminary investigation.
  • Federal officials say local authorities' handling of the prisons is "deplorable"
  • The state says it can't prevent escapes and has asked for federal help
  • The prison's director is missing, and an investigation indicates inmates colluded with workers
  • At least two other high-profile escapes occurred in Tamaulipas state this year

Mexico City, Mexico (CNN) -- State and federal authorities in Mexico traded barbs over the escape of 141 inmates from a border city prison as police stepped up security and searched for convicts on the run.

The inmates -- apparently in collusion with prison workers -- escaped through a service entrance for staff vehicles, according to information from a preliminary state investigation presented to reporters Friday. The prison director also "disappeared," said Antonio Garza Garcia, public safety secretary for Tamaulipas state.

After state authorities divulged the massive escape at the Executions of Sanctions Center, Mexico's interior ministry slammed local officials in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

"It is deplorable, the absence of effective measures of control and guarding on the part of local authorities, which has allowed frequent escapes from prisons, putting community security at risk," the ministry said in a statement.

Garza fired back, arguing that state officials had repeatedly asked the federal government for help guarding prisons, which often house federal prisoners serving time for their connection with drug gangs.

"The state does not have the capacity to stop their escape, which is why we have insisted on the support of the federal government to guarantee that they would be well guarded and thus avoid massive escapes," a statement from Antonio Garza Garcia's office said.

Earlier this year there were at least two other high-profile prison escapes in Tamaulipas, which borders Texas. In September, 85 inmates used a ladder to clear a wall and escape from a prison in the border city of Reynosa, state media reported. In March, 40 inmates escaped from another prison in the border city of Matamoros.

On Friday, Garza told reporters that the escape was reported after guards took roll call around 7 p.m. Thursday.

"We will have no restriction on punishing whoever has to be punished," Garza said, according to the state-run Notimex news agency. "We are going to act with the full weight of the law."

At least 58 of the prisoners who escaped Friday were federal inmates, he said. About 1,700 federal inmates are in prisons statewide, Garza said.

Security at eight other penitentiaries has been tightened, he told Radio Formula.

Tamaulipas has been a battleground in a bloody turf war between the Zetas gang and the Gulf cartel, but authorities did not indicate Friday whether drug gangs were involved in the escape.

CNN's Ariel Crespo contributed to this report.