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29 Mar 2018

Deadly riots, fire in Venezuela prison kill nearly 70

Deadly prison riots in Venezuela kill 68

Deadly riots and fire in a Venezuelan prison in Valencia killed at least 68 people yesterday.

Relatives had to wait hours outside the facility for news and deal with tear gas. It was late in the evening when officials divulged any information.

Venezuelan prisons are notorious for their lawlessness: prisoners are often seen openly using weapons, consuming drugs and leaving guards powerless.

In context

Deadly prison riots in Venezuela kill 68
Gunfire was heard as riots erupted


Gunfire was heard as riots erupted

According to local (unconfirmed) reports, riots erupted after a prisoner shot at an officer.

Amid the chaos, a fire broke out. Rescuers reportedly had to break through walls to save prisoners.

Officials said all but two of the victims were men. Four prosecutors are probing the incident.

The facility had a capacity of 60, but Venezuela's prisons are known for constantly being overcrowded.


Desperate scenes outside the prison as clueless relatives await news

Desperate scenes unfolded outside the prison. "I don't know if my son is dead or alive!" sobbed Aida Parra.

Many were seen with faces buried in their hands. Others needed to be supported to even stand up. Still others were seen praying quietly.

Clashes also broke out with police.

Opposition lawmaker Juan Miguel Matheus demanded information. "Desperation of relatives shouldn't be played with."

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In 2015, prisons were holding more than twice their capacity

The state of Venezuelan prisons is abysmal. The latest data available shows as of 2015, there were 49,644 inmates in prisons having an overall capacity of 19,000. Over 6,600 people died in prisons during 1999-2015, Human Rights Watch said.

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