1 300 prisoners in Venezuela riot

2011-06-20 08:58
A relative of an inmate of El Rodeo I prison walks near garbage that is burning during a protest outside the prison in Guatire, Venezuela. (Fernando Llano, AP)

A relative of an inmate of El Rodeo I prison walks near garbage that is burning during a protest outside the prison in Guatire, Venezuela. (Fernando Llano, AP)

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Caracas - National Guard troops were scrambling on Sunday trying to retake control of Venezuela's El Rodeo prison, where 25 people have been killed in three days of unrest, the country's interior chief said.

Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami told VTV television that about 2 500 inmates had been transferred out of the facility north of Caracas, and another 1 000 were awaiting transfers out of the overcrowded facility.

Meanwhile about 1 300 prisoners refused to stop rioting, El Aissami said. With 4 000 National Guard troops and army paratroopers on the case, authorities cut off power to the area they massed but had not brought them under control.

"We are going to be here for as long as it takes, until they cease their uprising and we are able to get in there, do proper searches and improve conditions inside," said El Aissami, reiterating a government offer to dialogue with the inmates.

"In two weeks they will be back at the facility, but it will be in decent conditions," the interior chief said.

The prison riot at El Rodeo, about 40km from Caracas, was the most violent in Venezuela since 1999, when a battle between guards and prisoners left 27 people dead.

Experts have voiced concern over drastic overcrowding in prisons across the country, where there are 50 000 people incarcerated in a system meant to hold no more than 15 000 inmates.

Each year more than 300 inmates are killed in prisons in Venezuela, one of the most violent countries in the Americas.

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