A violent clash between gangs at a prison in Venezuela killed at least 16 inmates in the latest bloodshed to afflict the notoriously over-crowded penal system, the government said on Tuesday.
The government says weapons smuggling by corrupt guards has allowed heavily armed inmates effectively to control some facilities. Venezuela’s prisons hold three times as many inmates as they were designed for, and gun battles are common..
But the death toll from the violence which broke out on Monday between two groups of detainees at the Sabaneta prison, in the western city of Maracaibo, was higher than usual..
The clashes were apparently caused by rival gangs vying for control of the prison,
Venezuela’s prisons are marred by overcrowding and violence. In many cases, they are controlled by heavily armed gangs of inmates.
According to the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, 591 inmates died in 34 jails across the country last year while another 1,132 were injured. That compares to 560 deaths and 1,457 injured in 2011.