April 26, 2017 / 9:26 PM / 3 years ago

Prison shootout in violent Venezuela leaves 12 dead

CARACAS (Reuters) - A prison riot in Venezuela’s eastern state of Anzoategui has left at least 12 people dead and 11 wounded, a spokesman at the Prisons Ministry said on Wednesday, the latest incident in the crisis-hit country’s overcrowded and violent jail system.

Venezuela’s public prosecutor’s office said it was investigating the deaths of “several” inmates on Tuesday during a shootout between the prisoners at the Jose Antonio Anzoategui prison.

Critics have said that Venezuela’s prisons are controlled by gangs with ready access to machine guns and even hand grenades.

“There are 12 people dead, nine shot, two due to drug overdoses, and one due to multiple injuries,” the spokesman told Reuters, asking not to be identified by name because he was not authorized to speak to media about the riot.

“It’s a prison that was going through a transition ... the clashes were between those who wanted it and those who didn’t,” the official said in reference to a government push to end overcrowding and weapons in jails.

Further details were not immediately available. It was not immediately clear if all the dead were inmates.

Venezuela is one of the world’s most violent countries and inmates often plan kidnappings and robberies from their cells.

Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Toni Reinhold

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