Soldiers and police took over two jails and arrested the wardens and 40 guards to thwart a planned breakout by 10 people held on drug trafficking charges, a police chief said Saturday.
A special force of 60 soldiers and police took part in the raids late Friday at a prison and a nearby penal farm in the northern port of La Ceiba, said Col. Rolando Valencia, a district Public Security Administration chief.Valencia told The Associated Press the government took action after authorities were tipped off that 10 Hondurans arrested on drug trafficking charges were planning "a massive jailbreak."
He refused to elaborate on the police tip, but he said the 10 also received special treatment from the wardens and guards.
The prisoners were picked up last week, and authorities said they were trying to smuggle 26 pounds of cocaine into the United States.
Valencia said there was no violence in the operation at La Ceiba, a Caribbean port 260 miles north of Tegucigalpa. He said the force arrested the 40 prison guards and the two wardens, Edgardo Cabrera and Adolfo Velasquez.
"The action was justified in view of the magnitude of the problem it would have caused," Valencia said. "The operation was also carried out to do away with the corruption that was prevalent in these jails, in which the wardens apparently were accomplices."
Justice Minister Enrique Ortiz Colindres ordered the wardens fired, Valencia said.
A special force raided the Central Penitentiary in Tegucigalpa on Feb. 20 after rumors circulated that some of the 1,500 inmates, including a number of suspected drug traffickers, planned an escape.
Its warden and deputy warden were fired, and more than 150 guards were arrested.
The remote, sparsely populated north coast of Honduras has become a favorite stop for smuggling South American cocaine into the United States.
During the past six years, the army located and destroyed more than 50 clandestine airstrips, which smugglers' airplanes used as refueling stops.