JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — The transfer of 892 federal inmates to prisons elsewhere in Mexico will have a “positive impact” on public safety in Juarez, Mayor Armando Cabada said.

Federal officials on Sunday flew all the inmates in the Cefereso 9 prison in Juarez to maximum security facilities in Monterrey, Guadalajara and Guanajuato. The Ministry of the Interior issued a statement that didn’t make it clear why it was closing the prison.

But the mayor said it was for security reasons. The “federal government decided to close Cefereso because it did not meet the basic, necessary security conditions,” Cabada said.

He said the transferred inmates were drug traffickers possibly still running their criminal enterprises from behind bars.

“Many there were sentenced or being tried for murder and drug offenses. We believe they were maintaining contact with criminal groups on the outside. (The transfers) break that link,” Cabada said on Tuesday. “We believe this could have positive repercussions” in the community.

Inmates from the Juarez federal prison board a Mexican National Guard airplane on Sunday. (photo by Roberto Delgado/Special to Border Report)

Since late last year, Juarez officials have been trying to prevent jailed leaders of organized criminal groups from ordering hits on rivals to their gang members on the outside.

One such effort led to a night of shootings and vehicle turnings, as Mexicles gang members rioted to prevent the transfer of one of their leaders. In May, Juarez police again came under fire, this time by members of the Aztecas gang retaliating after the arrest of one of their leaders.

Violent crime in Juarez is on the rise despite the pandemic and experts on both sides of the border blame that on the rising popularity of synthetic drugs. They say not only are the gangs fighting for supremacy of the usual trafficking corridors into the United States, but now they’re also fighting for in-house drug sales.

So far this year, Juarez has recorded 1,635 homicides, 80 to 90 percent of them drug related, according to the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office. The dead include 189 women and 35 minors, official figures show. Last year, the city recorded 1,497 murders.

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