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  • Writer's picturePanama Human Rights

An armoury of guns seized including AK-47 after 14 inmates shot dead in one day

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

The number of deaths due to the brawl in one of the pavillions of the La Joyita Prison increased by 14. This was confirmed by telephone on Wednesday, December 18, the director of the Penitentiary System, Walter Hernandez.

In this fact, firearms of heavy calibre came out, a situation that has caused astonishment among Panamanian society.

Yesterday there were 12 dead and 11 injured, two of them seriously, however, the official confirmed on Wednesday the figure of 14 dead.

Hernandez said that Hall 14 kept at least 514 deprived of liberty.

The Public Ministry (MP) has already investigated this fact.

According to Hernandez, information about the alleged dispute between a band in Hall 14 is handled. However, it will be up to the Public Ministry to clarify the situation.

Meanwhile, the authorities have said they are not clear about the entry of weapons of heavy calibre to the prison.

Hernandez said that investigations are being carried out to take legal action as such situations cannot be allowed.

Members of various sectors complain to the authorities because they do not explain the entry into a weapons prison such as AK-47 rifles, 9 mm guns, among others.

Hernandez confirmed that they were the ones described above, but stressed that they are "three long and five short weapons."

Lawyers demand investigation

Carlos Herrera Moran, President of the Human Rights Commission of the National Bar Association (CNA), expressed his regret for this type of events.

He argued that the National Constitution establishes that the Penitentiary System is based on principles of security, rehabilitation and social defence, so he criticized the situation that occurred since they had reported on the entry of weapons into the prison.

He asked how they explain the entry of weapons if families thoroughly review them, scanned the National Police review lawyers and custodians.

"These are police officers involved in this criminal arms business, and nobody does anything," he said.

He added that in prisons, security is the responsibility of the State.

At a press conference, the National Bar Association (CNA) will ask the MP for a thorough investigation.

12 dead and 11 injured reported after brawl in La Joyita Prison.

A total of 12 dead and 11 injured, two seriously injured, were the result of a brawl in Hall 14 of the La Joyita Penitentiary Center, where heavy-gauge firearms came out, in addition to a confrontation with members of the National Police.

Alexis Munoz, deputy director of the National Police, said the confrontation in Hall 14 was between members of the same gang. There were no injuries among police officers and custodians. Nor were leaks confirmed between detainees.

"We know that firearms are smuggled in this prison that has remained near populated areas," said Munoz.

The General Directorate of the Penitentiary System confirmed in the statement that the brawl was controlled, although they indicated that there were 11 dead, some less than the figure of the National Police.

The Penitentiary System indicated that they initiated the investigations of the facts, together with the Public Ministry.

The Public Ministry moved for the removal of the bodies and started with the corresponding investigations.

This hospital is under an active security device.

The competent authorities are expected to state in the next few hours to clarify the facts. It has been reported that it could be a confrontation between members of the same criminal gang.

The director of the National Police, Jorge Miranda, went to jail. He has not given statements to the media.

The centre was presented by Commissioners Domingo Espitia and Jhony Rangel, Deputy Commissioner Fransisco Amador and Major Luis Morales of the Pacora Zone.

About 60 members of the GAS and Alfa group, in addition to 18 uniforms of the GAR de Pacora, and lynx personnel, who took control of the centre.

Cortizo reacts

"Two weeks ago it was required and found to assemble and now weapons, this means that they are allowing weapons," said the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo.

"Those weapons did not fall from the sky. There was cooperation to enter the firearms. We will make decisions, and we will not allow." added Cortizo, who has a meeting with the Security Council on Wednesday, where the issue will be discussed.

At least 13 inmates were killed and 15 injured in a shoot-out in a prison in Panama on Tuesday.

Officials said they found three AK-47 assault rifles and five pistols.

President Laurentino Cortizo said an investigation would be launched into how the guns got into La Joyita jail east of the capital, Panama City.

"These firearms didn't fall out of the sky, there was obviously some type of cooperation there for firearms to be brought in," he said.

President Cortizo said he would meet his security council on Wednesday to discuss how to put a stop to guns being smuggled into jails.

"It's something we have to put a stop to. A few weeks ago a search was carried out [in the prison] and arms were found, and now again, so someone is letting these guns in," he said.

The shooting started at 14:00 local time (19:00 GMT) in cell block 14. Prison officials said that inmates are housed in blocks according to their gang affiliation.

The assistant director of Panama's National Police, Alexis Muñoz, said that the shoot-out was between members of the same gang who had "an internal disagreement".

While La Joyita is notorious for overcrowding, this is among the deadliest recorded prison fights in the Central American country.

No prisoners escaped during the fight, officials said.

Pictures showing the violence:

This video is now in retaliation to gang members being killed, it has now taken a different spin where the families on the outside are being killed.

Cortizo announces dismissals in the Penitentiary System after the massacre

The director of the Penitentiary System Walter Hernández Álvarez and the deputy director Luis Alberto Gordón Saldaña, were suspended. Also, National Police officers assigned to La Joyita. 

“In terms of dismissals, you can be assured that you do. I am sure that in the process that is starting from tomorrow there will be many results that will lead to dismissals, in parallel with a new recruitment process, ”the president of the Republic Laurentino Cortizo responded to journalists, after the massacre, yesterday, in pavilion 14 of the La Joyita prison that until today has a balance of 14 dead, according to an official report.

Cortizo said in a press conference: "I have given the Ministry of Government and the Ministry of Security two weeks to give me a full report of what happened yesterday."

He added that in those two weeks they should have the answers and actions they should take as soon as possible.

On this issue, the president ordered the Ministry of Government Carlos Romero to suspend the director of the Walter Hernández Álvarez Penitentiary System, and the deputy director Luis Alberto Gordón Saldaña.

He also ordered the investigation of Commissioner José Melamed, Chief of Penitentiary Security, of Deputy Commissioner Ismael Arguelles, chief of security of the La Joyita prison; and of the first corporal Rigoberto Pérez, who had a turn in Hall 14, where the massacre occurred.

"This is unacceptable and we have to be taking the measures that are required to prevent this from happening, including proceeding to investigate each of the persons responsible, whether they are custodians or members of the public forces who work in those facilities." For this, he said that a special system will be used.

"The other thing that I also want to be executed is that the recruitment of new members between custodians and the Police must be of the highest quality."

He added that the prison staff will be tested tomorrow, December 19, and who does not pass will leave the system.

"Yesterday's action will have consequences not only for those deprived of liberty but also for those who have to guard those in these prisons," said the head of the Panamanian State.

More than a hundred inmates of La Joyita will be transferred to the Mega Jewel

With information from Meredith Serracin

Cortizo separates 4 officials by a brawl in La Joyita and says there will be consequences

Public Ministry reports that the death toll rises to 15 after a brawl in La Joyita

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Police take La Joyita, after the Massacre of Hall 14

For two days about a thousand agents saturate the pavilions of the dangerous prison. They look for weapons, they have only found 4 guns

The National Police informed on the morning of this Friday, December 20, that they conducted a search in halls 13 and 14 of the La Joyita prison, where they confiscated a large number of prohibited objects.

Among the seizures, there were four firearms, 61 ammunition, three suppliers, a loader, 10 bags and 27 envelopes with alleged illicit substances.

Additionally, 107 cell phones, four digital weights, a machete, 21 plates, a magma and tattoo implements, 5 knives and more than 50 boxes of cigarettes were seized.

Also, there were several scissors, razors, electronic items such as video game equipment, televisions, routers, cell cards and memories, among others which were not allowed.

These prison control actions were developed in coordination with the General Directorate of the Penitentiary System and will be carried out at the national level, details the note.

The requisition is given after the massacre that has left 15 dead and at least 13 injured, according to a report from the Penitentiary System until Friday.

The police are on the trail of more heavy weapons such as the ones used in La Joyita Massacre, last Tuesday, December 17. According to sources to which he had access in Seconds there could still be 3 AK-47 assault rifles inside the prison.

Police seize more firearms and drugs in La Joyita, after killing

The authorities carry out investigations from the killing of 15 inmates, on December 17.

National Police units seized five firearms, 298 ammunition, 4 suppliers and 38 sachets with alleged illicit substances during requisition in halls 11 and 12 of the La Joyita Penitentiary Center on Saturday.

During this operation, the confiscation of 122 cell phones, 132 chargers, 86 telephone chip, 58 plates, 12 knives, 5 machetes, 10 scissors, 403 razors, 321 metal blades, 39 sharps, electronic equipment, among others was achieved. These items were not allowed.

The action was carried out in coordination with the General Directorate of the Penitentiary System with the purpose of recovering the spaces in the prisons to guarantee the order of the persons deprived of liberty and the security of the administrative personnel that in the work, after the shooting between inmates which claimed the lives of 15 people.

Previously, a large number of prohibited items were confiscated in halls 13 and 14 of the prison. In the latter, where the killing took place.

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