Five gang members beheaded in brutal prison fight

Five severed heads lie on the ground outside a Guatemalan prison. The victims: decapitated by fellow inmates after two rival gangs were placed in the same prison. Read more and see the video...


Five severed heads lie on the ground outside a Guatemalan prison. The victims: decapitated by fellow inmates after two rival gangs were placed in the same prison.

The fight broke out after alleged members of bitter rival gangs Maras Salvatrucha and Maras Diez y Ocho were placed in Pavoncito prison in Guatemala City on Friday night. It took the police several hours to regain control of the prison, in which time five people had been decapitated, one with their head impaled on a stick, and two fatally shot. Gang and prison brutality is nothing new to Guatemala; a country plagued with a violent background following decades of bloody civil war which didn't come to an end until less than a decade ago. As our Observer tells us, under the current circumstances, the situation looks unlikely to improve.


The decapitated bodies lie on the ground. One of the prisoners shouts "It's a message!" to eyewitnesses who surround the compound. We weren't able to get hold of the person who filmed the footage.  The video was posted on news.walla

"It's a heritage that the war has left"

Marcela Gereda is an anthropologist who studies gang culture in Guatemala. She's currently writing a book about the social rehabilitation of criminal gang members.

"This story is very brutal... but there are a lot of things like this happening that go unreported. I think the story only made it to the press because there was a video.

The brutality of this act shows that the gang members' violence has no limits. They've surpassed social laws; cut their ties with society. And yet they're seeking attention from society. They need to find a way to express who they are. They're trying to get some kind of recognition. These people have no education opportunities, no place in the workforce and no consumption power. Boys as young as eleven are recruited into the gangs. They come from very poor, suburban barrios. They have no human development. They find it hard to look you in the eye. Most of them have been abandoned by their families at an early age or abused. It's a case of violence breeds violence. It's a heritage that the war has left.

The Salvatrucha gang grew from those who fled to Los Angeles during the 1990s civil war. They have since been gradually deported back from the US and there has been a huge and continuous influx of uneducated, criminal gang members in Guatemala, resulting in this violence between the different groups. It was so stupid for the police to put the Maras Salvatrucha gang and MS - 18: the gang from 18th Street, in the same prison. They're the two biggest rivals. 

It's not a big thing to go into jail for these people. It's a part of their culture. They operate and coordinate both inside and outside of jail. Of course one of the problems is that the police are part of the networks. For them to have been able to get hold of these weapons must mean that they have an alliance with the guards.

The government in Guatemala is very repressive with violence instead of building more schools and libraries etc. Hence violence becomes increasingly expensive. The prison system should have opportunities within it: education, work etc. We have no social institutions in place to avoid this type of thing. And few people leave by themselves. They don't think as individuals, they think collectively. So if you ask them if they want to leave the gang, they say no."