Gang violence in Venezuela’s Sabaneta prison in the western city of Maracaibo has left at least 16 people dead following a riot.
Relatives gathered outside anxiously waiting for news. Corrupt guards may have allowed weapons to be smuggled inside. In some of the country’s 34 mostly run-down prisons heavily-armed inmates run the show.
“When will these massacres cease to exist? We want the government’s presence in Sabaneta National Prison. More and more dead and Minister Varela does not visit this prison,” said one woman waiting outside.
Prisons Minister Iris Varela has to grapple with a system that has exceeded capacity threefold, and where hundreds are killed each year in riots and gun battles.
“I called the inmates and the family members of inmates at the Maracaibo National Prison to contribute to defusing the rate of violence. We don’t want one more death in these prisons. Enough with the violence;” she said.
Fifty-eight people died in January in the country’s worst prison incident in several years, and a recent UN report says the country now has Latin America’s third-worst violent crime rate.