Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela prison riot 'leaves 20 dead'

Relatives of inmates wait for news outside the Yare I prison on 20 August 2012
Image caption Relatives gathered outside the prison, anxious for news

A riot in a prison in Venezuela has left at least 20 people dead, officials say.

The riot occurred at the Yare I prison in Miranda state, the prisons minister Iris Varela told state TV, adding that the situation at the prison was now under control.

The violence occurred between rival gangs, with one of the dead a relative of an inmate, Ms Varela said.

However, the precise cause of the riot is not yet clear.

"There was a confrontation between two heavily armed groups inside the prison," Ms Varela said, adding that those responsible for the deaths would be "made to answer" for their actions.

Addressing wider concerns about Venezuela's prison system, Ms Varela said that violent inmates were "a minority who maintain control through terror".

The majority of prisoners were peaceable, "want to pay off the debt they owe and return to their lives", she said.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says protests and fights between rival gangs in Venezuela's overcrowded prisons led to more than 500 deaths last year.

Last month a riot in the Cepra penitentiary went on for 20 days before the leaders of the rebellion gave themselves up.

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