Photo: Venezuelan prison riot
Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard, or GNB, took control Saturday of a prison in the western state of Merida after a month-long conflict left 20 inmates dead, government authorities said.
The GNB militarized police “took back total and absolute control before dawn” of the Andean Region Penitentiary Center, or Cepra, in a military operation that left no fatalities, the Interior Ministry press secretary Jorge Galindo posted on his Twitter account.
Iris Varela, the minister of penitentiary services, for her part said on state television channel VTV that details would be forthcoming during the day about the crisis that was finally ended with the “total surrender of the instigators of violence.”
“The situation has been resolved, the gang leaders of that prison are now under orders of the authorities,” the minister said, and promised that the jail “from now on” will be “a penitentiary free of any kind of weapon and of any situation like the one we’ve just seen.”
Violence at the Cepra lockup broke out more than 20 days ago and according to opposition lawmaker William Davila, a member of the “special commission” designated this week by the National Assembly to deal with that situation, left 22 inmates dead and more than 60 wounded during the month of July.
The minister confirmed that during the crisis there was also a birth and said that the newborn’s mother “had come for a visit and was kept there kidnapped” by the “gang leaders of that jail.”
The crisis started as an uprising to stop some prisoners from being sent to other penal centers, which, according to non-governmental organizations working in the country’s prisons, led to the gradual intervention of the GNB that progressively took control of the prison.
The Venezuelan Prison Observatory, or OVP, made up of several NGOs, said that last year there were 560 deaths and 1,457 wounded in the nation’s 35 prisons, which have a total capacity for some 14,500 inmates but currently hold about 45,000.