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CARACAS: More than 20 people were killed in a prison riot as two groups of inmates battled for control of the penitentiary, Venezuelan officials said Monday.
The violence erupted on Sunday night at Yare I prison south of Caracas, and one of those slain was a relative of an inmate, said Iris Varela, the government’s prisons minister.
Varela told state television that more than 20 were killed but did not give a precise death toll or explain how the riot broke out.
She said that as of Monday morning the situation at the prison was under control.
Varela didn’t provide details about how the inmate’s relative died. She said that prisoners who were behind the killings “are going to have to answer for this.”
Prison unrest and crowding have become major problems for President Hugo Chavez’s government. Violence is common inside Venezuela’s prisons, where inmates often manage to obtain weapons and drugs with the help of corrupt guards.
The watchdog group Venezuelan Prisons Observatory says 560 people were killed in Venezuelan prisons last year. It also says the pace of the violence increased during the first half of this year, with at least 304 inmates killed. -- AP