LA PAZ – Inmates at El Abra prison set sheets and clothes on fire Wednesday to prevent authorities from searching for weapons, three days after a shootout between Bolivian and foreign-born inmates left four people dead and 10 injured, authorities said.
Anibal Camacho, a spokesman for the inmates, said at the prison gates that the men opposed the inspection because in the course of searches since the confrontation last Sunday “money and valuable objects have been lost, and personal belongings have been destroyed,” state news agency ABI reported.
Cochabamba provincial prisons director Dennis Mejia denied that Wednesday’s protest amounted to a riot and said the situation was under control.
Last Sunday, four inmates died and 10 people – including a pregnant woman – were wounded were injured when Bolivian inmates battled foreign prisoners for control of El Abra.
The clash happened when a blackout interrupted the celebration inside the prison of a festival to honor the Virgin of Urkupiña Virgin, patroness of Cochabamba.
The pregnant woman, who ended up losing her baby, was among the outsiders visiting the prison for the celebration.
Bolivia’s national ombudsman, Rolando Villena, expressed concern about the violence and questioned the wisdom of having a celebration inside a prison.
Overcrowding and battles between rival gangs are widespread within Bolivia’s prison system, a problem worsened by a slow judicial process that keeps men and women behind bars for years awaiting a verdict.