MONTEVIDEO – Three inmates died from smoke inhalation in an intentionally set fire in the Comcar prison, Uruguayan police said on Sunday.
The fire broke out in cell block No. 2 at the facility, located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Montevideo, early Sunday morning.
At least six inmates apparently involved in the incident are being held incommunicado while investigators seek to clarify the motives and identities of those responsible.
The parliamentary prison commissioner, Alvaro Garce, told reporters that the Justice Department is investigating the incident and is not ruling out murder as the motive.
Prisoners at Comcar consulted by El Espectador radio said that the fire was intentionally set to take revenge upon those who died “because they were alive.”
Apparently, the dead prisoners had been robbing and extorting their cellmates and were attacked for that reason.
“The boys are tired of, for example, my mother bringing me things and them taking them from me. The problems inside here are for those reasons. They couldn’t take any more and set the fire when (the victims) were sleeping inside the cell,” said one inmate interviewed by El Espectador.
He said that the other four prisoners who shared the cell with the dead men left the area before the fire after being advised of the killers’ plans, adding that they did not have anything to do with the victims.
In July 2010, 12 inmates died in a fire at a prison in Rocha province, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of the capital, an incident that revealed the precarious conditions existing within the country’s prisons, which have been called “subhuman” and an “insult to (human) dignity” by the United Nations, which added that they were “among the worst in the world.”
In October 2009, five prisoners died in a blaze during a prison protest on the outskirts of the Uruguayan capital.
Overcrowding and poor hygienic conditions, as well as frequent clashes among the inmates are several of the problems affecting Uruguayan prisons.