At least 50 killed, 90 wounded in Venezuela prison riot: hospital
By Lissy de Abreu ,AFPCARACAS -- At least 50 people were killed and 90 others wounded Friday in clashes between prison gangs and security guards at a prison in northwest Venezuela, a hospital director said.
January 27, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
Television images showed National Guard troops surrounding the penitentiary as inmates in bloody clothes were taken out of the building. Behind the barriers, relatives of the prisoners, most of them women, waited for news of their loved ones, many of them in tears.
Most of those injured at Uribana prison in Lara state suffered gunshot wounds, said the hospital official, Ruy Medina.
He called the death toll “alarming,” saying it was based solely on bodies brought to the hospital.
Medina said the inmates began arriving at the hospital shortly before midday, and that 14 of the injured had wounds severe enough to require surgery.
Iris Varela, the government minister responsible for Venezuela's jails and prisons, said the riot was set off after inmates rebelled when prison authorities launched a sweep of the facility in search of illicit weapons.
Varela had said earlier in the day that there was an “undetermined number” of casualties from the melee. Attempts by AFP to get an update from the ministry later in the day were unsuccessful.
Varela said the attempt to “completely disarm” the prisoners had been undertaken as a result of tips indicating that “internal prison gangs that fight for control of the penitentiary planned to settle scores with each other.”
Opposition parties did not wait long to attack the government, accusing it of exercising lax control over the prison system.
“Who will they blame for this massacre this time around?” an opposition leader Henriques Capriles asked in his tweet. A former presidential candidate, Capriles lost last October's election to President Hugo Chavez.
“The government is incapable and irresponsible,” he added.
Humberto Prado, head of the nongovernmental Venezuelan Prison Monitoring Organization said that so far, the Venezuelan government “had failed to take responsibility for the events” and instead was “piling blame on the media.”