Over 60 dead and many more injured in Venezuela prison riot
CARACAS, Venezuela, Monday January 28, 2013 – After more than 60 people died in a riot at the Uribana prison on Friday, Venezuelan prison minister Iris Varela has announced the closure of the jail.
Stating that the female wing of the jail near the city of Barquisimeto had already been cleared, Ms Varela said officials had decided to clear the prison of all inmates to "close this chapter of violence".
According to Ms Varela, the riot had been sparked by news reports alerting prisoners to an impending raid by soldiers who had been sent to the prison to search inmates for weapons following indications that rival gangs within the jail were preparing for a fight.
The prisoners are said to have then lain in wait for the National Guard, attacking them as they entered the Uribana penitentiary. An undetermined number of soldiers, inmates and prison workers were killed in the ensuing slaughter.
The prison minister did not say how many people had died in the riot, but Ruy Medina, the director of the Hospital Central Antonio Maria Pineda, said he had counted 61 bodies in the morgue and 120 people had been injured.
Earlier, local media had reported that the security forces were still not in full control of the prison.
Ms Varela said most of the victims had been killed with home-made weapons and rudimentary knives, while Mr Medina had stated that many of the bodies at his hospital's morgue had gunshot wounds.
Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said there would be a thorough investigation into the riot, led by Venezuela's Prosecutor General and the President of the National Assembly.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles blamed the violence on "incompetent and irresponsible government".
Venezuelan human rights activist Carlos Nieto Palma commented that Uribana prison was among the most dangerous in the country and suffered from overcrowding.
Violence between rival gangs is common in Venezuela's overcrowded jails, with more than 300 people said to have been killed behind prison walls in 2012.
According to the non-governmental Venezuelan Prisons Observatory (VPO), over 50,000 inmates were housed in prisons built to hold 14,000 last year. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)