CARACAS – The inmates who died when security forces members put down a riot at a prison in the southern state of Amazonas were armed with hand grenades and rifles, Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said Thursday.
The uprising at the Amazonas Judicial Detention Center (CDJA) on Wednesday left 37 prisoners dead.
Some of the inmates were killed by the blasts and shrapnel from grenades they used, Reverol told VTV.
Inmates opened fire with “long arms” on National Police officers and National Guard members who “were acting to ... restore public order,” Reverol said.
“The security forces had to act and were met with fire from long arms and grenades, more than 20 grenades were thrown at security forces members trying to contain the violent situation,” the interior minister said.
Just “three guards” were on duty at the prison, trying to control dozens of inmates, Reverol said.
“We have seized more than 16 firearms,” the interior minister said, adding that 15 security forces members were wounded in the fighting with inmates.
The CDJA has been closed and 27 inmates transferred to other prisons, Reverol said.
Roberto Antonio Martinez Orozco, an inmate leader, was among those killed, Reverol said.
Venezuela, with 166 people behind bars for every 100,000 residents, has the region’s third-smallest prison population, yet its penitentiary system is among the most violent.
As part of an effort to curb prison violence, the leftist government has imposed a militarized administration in roughly half of Venezuela’s penal institutions.