Mexican Drug Lords File Complaint Over Inhumane Prison Conditions

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Some of Mexico's most infamous drug traffickers, including El Chapo Guzman and Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal, have written a letter to the country's National Human Rights Commission.

Some of Mexico's most infamous drug traffickers, including El Chapo Guzman and Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal, have written a letter to the country's National Human Rights Commission complaining about conditions in the maximum security prison where they are being held.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Mexico, a human rights commission is dealing with a new case of alleged violations by the federal government. The complaints come from the country's most vicious and notorious criminals, more than a hundred of them. They're prisoners at Mexico's maximum security prison, and as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, they say they're being housed in unsafe and inhumane conditions.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: It's quite the list of Mexico's underworld that signed the 11-page handwritten, detailed complaint. Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, who, until his capture last year, was the world's most wanted drug trafficker, signed it. So did Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as La Barbie. Valdez was born in the U.S. and notorious for his videotaped torturing of victims. Dozens of murderers and kidnappers also added their names. And their list of complaints are just as long - everything from spoiled food filled with worms and rocks, poor medical attention, denial of their 10-minute weekly telephone calls, being held in dirty cells for 23 hours a day and unsanitary conjugal visits. Such visits are a right in Mexican prisons, and the letter describes them held in dirty rooms with odorous mattresses that have springs sticking out. Ruth Villanueva Castilleja, with Mexico's National Human Rights Commission, says the letter, which has been posted on several websites, has been received by her organization. It was delivered back in February.

RUTH VILLANUEVA CASTILLEJA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: And just like any other complaint, Villanueva told reporters it is being investigated. Just how the letter was circulated and signed by so many prisoners, many of whom are longtime rivals and bitter enemies, is not known. Nor is anyone saying when the investigation into the former capos' and murderers' complaints will be completed. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.