Venezuelan prison evacuated after deadly riot

At least 58 killed, 120 others wounded as government launches inquiry into clashes at prison in country's northwest.

    Venezuelan Prisons Minister Iris Varela has said that 58 people were killed during a riot at a jail in the country's northwest, lowering an earlier given death toll by three.

    "The toll of unfortunate people who lost their lives, both here at the prison and from injuries suffered here, stands at 57 people. Painfully, we must add to this one more person whose body was found burned," Varela said during a press conference from the Uribana jail in Lara state.

    A day earlier, Varela said that officials had decided to evacuate all inmates from the Uribana prison in the city of Barquisimeto after the bloodshed on Friday in order to "close this chapter of violence.'' 

    Varela said inmates were being taken to other facilities. 

    Most of those injured at the Uribana prison in Lara state late on Friday suffered gunshot wounds, Ruy Medina, the hospital official said. 

    Among the dead are a pastor and a member of the National Guard - the rest are said to be inmates, the hospital director said. 

    He called the death toll "alarming", saying it was based solely on bodies brought to the hospital.

    Saying that "prisons need to be places of re-education not for crimes and mafia", Nicholas Maduro, Venezuelan vice president, said an "immediate investigation" had been launched into the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

    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.

    Varela said the riot was set off after inmates rebelled when prison authorities launched a sweep of the facility in search of illicit weapons.

    The minister had said earlier in the day that there was an "undetermined number" of casualties from the melee.

    The state of Venezuelan prisons have often been called into question, especially for their overcrowding, which is among the worst in Latin America.

    While the country's prisons have been built to house 14,000 inmates, there are almost 50,000 prisoners behind bars.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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