30 dead in Bolivia prision riot

2013-08-24 17:23
Medical personnel transport a wounded man at the Palmasola prison in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (STR, AFP)

Medical personnel transport a wounded man at the Palmasola prison in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (STR, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

La Paz - A battle among rival gangs in a prison in Bolivia's eastern lowlands on Friday left 30 people dead, many burned to death, as witnesses said inmates used propane gas tanks as flame throwers. Among the dead was an 18-month-old infant.

The carnage in Palmasola maximum-security prison outside the regional capital of Santa Cruz also left 60 people injured, as inmates in one cell block attacked a neighbouring cell block with knives, machetes and canisters of gas, said Interior Minister Carlos Romero.

Romero said the fight was over leadership and space in the prison. Inmates in one cell block knocked a hole in the wall separating the two groups, and opened the valves on the gas tanks, using them as flame-throwers, he said. The straw mattresses used by the inmates caught fire and the flames spread.

"The victims were trapped in the fire," Romero said. Palmasola is Bolivia's largest prison and officials are calling it the country's worst episode of prison violence.

Police and guards took several hours to put out the flames and control the violence, which took place in the prison wing that holds some of the prison's most dangerous prisoners. Most of the dead were on the second floor of the two-story block, Romero said.

Among the dead was a one-and-a-half year-old child, authorities said. The United Nations complained to Bolivia's government two months ago about its policy of allowing children through age 6 to live with parents in prisons.

By midday about a dozen children had been evacuated from the prison.

The local representative of Bolivia's independent Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, Maria Inez Galvez, told The Associated Press that she and other members of her group who were allowed to enter the prison saw "bodies of burned men, some of the wounded with burned hands, others with burned faces."

"We didn't know how to begin to help," she said, her voice cracking with emotion. She said that when she arrived at 20:00. the worst of the wounded had been evacuated. Hospital officials said many had second- and third-degree burns.

"We also saw a man who had burns and got up and grabbed a police officer's weapon in order to get taken to the hospital," said Galvez.

Not enough police

She said there were not enough police available to escort wounded prisoners to hospitals to get medical attention.

Galvez said she was told the fight was over the refusal of the gang in one cell block to pay extortion fees to its rivals in the other cell block, who attacked around dawn while most inmates were sleeping.

Some inmates jumped off a second-story roof to save themselves. TV images showed naked inmates stretched out on the floor of a prison block, many complaining of burns, after police regained control of the prison.

Although no guns were seized, officials said they found bullet casings and witnesses reported hearing shots.

As in many Latin American prisons, inmates largely control the inside of Palmasola, which teems with some 3 500 inmates, more than four in five still awaiting trial.

Outside the prison, relatives of inmates wept and shouted demands for a list of victims. Some angrily complained to journalists that police did nothing to try to save the lives of burn victims.

Romero, the interior minister, presented to the media five alleged leaders of the riot and said that another 50 inmates are in isolation for their role in the violence.

He acknowledged that the inmates ran the prison internally and called for a reform to the penitentiary system to "recover state control".

President Evo Morales expressed "consternation" over the deaths in a statement carried by the state news agency ABI, and said he was ordering a thorough investigation.

Weapons and drugs are typically available and businesses operate under the protection of gang leaders. Almost anything can be obtained in a prison like Palmasola for a fee, former inmates say, including cellphones and larger living spaces.

- AP

Read more on:    bolivia
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Tight security in Manenberg for Mthethwa

There was a heavy police presence in the gang hotspot of Manenberg in Cape Town on Thursday ahead of the arrival of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
The EFF's ad was banned, see why
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Strandfontein - 14:21 PM
    Road name: Strandfontein Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at 15th Avenue
  • Thursday Delft - 13:24 PM
    Road name: R300 Southbound
    ROADWORKS - right lane closed at the Hindle Road exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

24 hour sale- 30% off beauty products

Today only, get 30% on all hair care, skincare, selected cosmetics and fragrances. Offer expires midnight 24 April. While stocks last. Shop now!

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9780

BlackBerry 6 Engage your world with BlackBerry 6 OS on the...

From R3049.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be more sensitive today and can be influenced easily by the energies around you. Try not to be swayed too much by the...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.