Over 100 guns found in riot prison
CARACAS (AFP) – Authorities found more than 100 firearms, including rifles and submachine guns, in a Venezuelan prison where nearly 60 people died in rioting last month, the government said Thursday.
It took security forces two days to regain full control of the Uribana prison in northwestern Venezuela after the prison brawl, which brutally underscored the crowded and violent conditions in the country’s jails.
The arsenal included 27 revolvers, five shotguns, 62 pistols, four submachine guns and 12 grenades, prisons minister Iris Varela said at a press conference.
She added that some of the guns had laser sights. Gangs in Latin America’s overcrowded prisons often bribe guards and other officials to smuggle in weapons, drugs and even prostitutes.
Varela said the bodies of all 58 people killed in the riots had been returned to their families and that the prison would reopen in a couple of months after renovations.
Authorities said the riot was sparked by an inmates rebellion when guards launched a sweep of the facility in search of weapons, after receiving a tip-off that prison gangs were readying to fight.
Uribana was believed to have held about 2,500 inmates. Venezuela is notorious for the poor state of its prisons, which suffer from some of the most staggeringly high levels of overcrowding in Latin America.
Originally built to house 14,000 inmates, the country’s prisons now hold almost 50,000, often with low sanitary standards and high levels of violence.
In August 2012, at least 25 people were killed and 43 wounded during a clash between rival gangs in Yare I prison near Caracas. In June 2011, dozens died in a riot that erupted at El Rodeo prison.