When the Los Zetas drug cartel offered to re-paint the prison chapel here, chaplain Robert Coogan declined the offer because the leaking roof would ruin the paint job anyway.
So the Zetas inmates fixed the roof, then painted the chapel, in one day.
"I asked (the leader) why you're not a politician," said Coogan, a New York native and Catholic priest. "He said, 'I like things done quickly.'"
The Zetas have the run of the prison in this industrial city 190 miles southwest of Lardeo, Texas, in what is known as autogobierno or self-rule. It dates back decades and forms of it exist in correctional facilities the world over.
But self-rule has become more of a problem in Mexico recently as prison populations swell with suspects detained in the ongoing crackdown on organized crime and the country's drug cartels seize power behind bars.
Friday, April 29, 2011
The Wrong People in Control of Mexican Jails
David Agren on "autogobierno" in Mexico prisons: