Church demands answers after at least 48 die in gang fight in Honduran women’s prison

Honduras women's prison fight Relatives of inmates of the Women's Center for Social Adaptation (CEFAS) prison cry outside the detention center after a fire following a brawl between inmates in Tamara, some 25 kilometers from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on June 20, 2023. | Credit: Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images

The Catholic Church in Honduras has made an urgent appeal to the authorities to determine the circumstances in which 48 women inmates died June 20 inside the Women’s Center for Social Readaptation (CEFAS) in the town of Tamara, about 20 miles northwest of Tegucigalpa, the country's capital.

According to local authorities, on June 20 there was a confrontation between rival gangs inside CEFAS, which unleashed a fire as well as shootings and stabbings.

The bishop emeritus of San Pedro Sula, Ángel Garachana Pérez, said on Twitter: “The tragedy repeats itself: 48 women burned to death or killed in CEFAS!”

“Who does not tremble with grief for them and for their relatives? Who does not wonder with outrage when the radical and comprehensive transformation of a corrupt and failed prison system is going to be undertaken?” the prelate questioned.

The number of women who died has not been fully determined. The public prosecutor’s office of Honduras counted 41 in a statement published June 20. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR), there were 46.

Other sources, including Garachana Pérez, place the figure even higher. The Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa’s prison ministry demanded that the authorities clarify “this cruel event” and that “answers be provided for what happened.”

In addition, the bishop demanded that security be reinforced in prisons, so that “it works effectively and in an appropriate manner.”

According to La Prensa, the archdiocesan prison ministry also questioned how firearms got into the prison despite security procedures.

Father Juan Ángel López, spokesman for the Honduran Bishops’ Conference, lamented in a statement to the Honduran newspaper La Prensa that “the statistics are cold and don’t reflect but obscure and make us insensitive to real pain. No more excuses!”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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