LA PAZ – At least four inmates were killed and 11 were wounded in an armed clash between foreign and Bolivian prisoners at a jail in the central city of Cochabamba, authorities said Monday.
The regional head of the Cochabamba Penitentiary System, Denis Mejia, told state news agency ABI that the inmates had engaged in a shootout the night before in El Abra Penitentiary.
The clash occurred between Bolivian prisoners and foreign inmates charged with drug trafficking in a struggle for control of the prison.
Fighting broke out Sunday night after a power failure in the jail during a Mass celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Urkupiña, the patron of the city of Cochabamba, unofficial reports said.
Hundreds of police took back control of the penitentiary before dawn Monday.
Overcrowding and violence among inmates are typical of the Bolivian prison system and contribute to the slowness of justice in the Andean nation, where a large percentage of prisoners are kept in jail for years without ever being sentenced by a court.
In an attempt to correct that situation, President Evo Morales’ administration decreed two massive pardons in 2012 and 2013 for prisoners charged with minor crimes, though the measure has not achieved the desired results.
August marked one year since Bolivia’s greatest prison tragedy occurred in the eastern jail of Palmasola, considered the most conflicted in the country.
Thirty-five people died there, including a baby, in a fire that started during a brawl among inmates.