The Miami Herald
Sun, Sep. 26, 2004

Gang-led rebellion at 2 jails comes to quiet end

A government human rights prosecutor and a Catholic prelate have negotiated a peaceful end to a rebellion by gang members at two El Salvador prisons.

SAN SALVADOR - (AP) -- An uprising by about 800 gang members at two Salvadoran prisons has ended peacefully following government promises to study complaints by the inmates.

Members of the Mara-18 gang rioted on Thursday afternoon at the prisons in Chalatenango and Cojutepeque, according to Salvadoran officials.

About 100 relatives and friends were in the prisons visiting at the time, and were prevented from leaving.

But a priest who was caught inside, Luis Alonso Menjivar, said they ``were never in danger.''

Government human rights prosecutor Beatrice de Carrillo and Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chavez mediated an end to the standoff Friday.

De Carrillo said the prisoners wanted fellow gang members transferred out of a third prison, Zacatecoluca, where they faced ``fear and terror.''

Rosa Chavez said the group also complained about allegedly illegal arrest practices under a government crackdown on gangs called ''super-hard hand,'' as well as about poor conditions and overcrowding in the prisons.

''Their proposals were strictly political,'' said Rodolfo Garay, director-general of prisons.

Garay said inmates' friends and relatives were about to leave the prisons in the cities of Cojutepeque and Chalatenango at the end of visiting hours around 3:30 p.m. when gang members blocked the entrances.

Cojutepeque is about 20 miles east of San Salvador and Chalatenango is about 100 miles north of the capital.