LA PAZ – Two Bolivian inmates, one of them serving a 25-year sentence for murder, managed to escape from a prison in the eastern city of Santa Cruz during a riot in which another prisoner was injured, authorities said Tuesday.
One of the escapees currently being sought by police is Jhonny Beltran Soto, who in December 2014 began serving a 25-year term behind bars for murder and weapons possession in the Palmasola prison, Government Minister Carlos Romero told the media.
The other prisoner who fled is Gadiel Torrico Aguilera, serving three years for weapons possession, according to the report presented by Romero at a press conference together with Bolivian Police commander Gen. Alfonso Faustino Mendoza.
The pair of escapees were declared to be fugitives when they did not turn up at the head count of prisoners at Palmasola on Monday evening after police had retaken control of the prison, Romero said.
The riot broke out at midday on Monday when prisoners protested restrictions on the entry of children into the prison after a young girl was repeatedly raped by one of the inmates.
The initial report on the riot said that six prisoners who tried to escape had been recaptured and one was injured by gunfire, specifically a shotgun pellet, but later the head count confirmed that two prisoners were missing and had managed to escape in the confusion.
Romero announced that authorities would undertake “a series of measures to strengthen security” in Bolivian prisons, particularly in Palmasola, “which houses more than a third of the country’s inmates and has ... (given authorities) many problems recently.”
The walled Palmasola prison complex is located within Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s largest city with 1.5 million residents.
Brawls among inmates are a frequent occurrence in the prison, where 35 people died – including three foreigners and an 18-month-old child – in a 2013 clash resulting in a fire.
Provincial police commander Alfonso Siles had said before the head count on Monday that the situation at the prison was “under control,” emphasizing that “no massive escape ... (or) shootout” had occurred and adding that prison authorities were speaking with Santa Cruz Gov. Ruben Costas and others to keep them apprised of the situation, prevent further problems and reassure the public.