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Scores killed in Venezuela jail riot

May 3, 2020

At least 46 people were killed in a riot at a Venezuelan prison, according to figures reported by a human rights group and media on Saturday. The country's prisons have serious problems with overcrowding and violence.

Healthcare workers and members of the Bolivarian national police watch as an ambulance arrives with prisoners outside a hospital after a riot erupted inside a prison in Guanare, Venezuela May 1, 2020
Image: Reuters/M. Alvarado

The incident took place on Friday as inmates attempted to break out of Los Llanos prison, in the western city of Guanare – the regional capital of Portuguesa State.

A report by the National Guard – a leg of the armed forces that often undertakes civil defense tasks – stated soldiers fired at a group of armed prisoners during the break-out attempt, said Reuters news agency.

Read more: Russia: Riot and fire erupt at Siberian prison

Deadly riots are common in Venezuela's prisons, where inmates often openly carry guns. Human Rights Watch reported this year that the country's jails have serious problems with corruption, inadequate security and overcrowding.

According to opposition lawmaker Maria Beatriz Martinez, the riot broke out after coronavirus measures saw family members prevented from bringing food to inmates during visits.

Read more: Displaced Venezuelans face poverty and pandemic in Colombia

The prison director was also shot and wounded during the riot, said the country's prisons minister, Iris Varela.

A rising death toll

The death toll has risen significantly since the incident was first reported – initially, Varela did not provide a death toll to local newspaper Ultimas Noticias on Friday. However, Venezuelan online television channel VPI and Beatriz Giron, director of the Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons both reported the same death toll on Saturday.

"We see a new massacre in the prisons of our country under the control and responsibility of the dictatorship," tweeted Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido – who is recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's legitimate president – in response to the incident.

Read more: Venezuela jail inmates killed in clash with police special forces

kmm/shs (Reuters, dpa)

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