Venezuelan Prison Riot Leaves Seven Inmates Dead

A riot by inmates fighting for control of cell blocks within a prison left seven prisoners dead and 11 wounded in central Venezuela, officials said Tuesday.

Deputy Justice Minister Yuri Pimentel said in a statement the deadly riot broke out late Monday at Tocuyito Prison near Valencia, an industrial city about 110 kilometers (65 miles) west of the capital of Caracas.

The statement did not say whether authorities had quelled the riot, and it was not clear how the inmates died.

CountryWatch: Venezuela

Violence is common in Venezuela's overcrowded and understaffed prisons, where about 20,000 inmates live in 30 facilities built to hold 15,000. Prisoners often bribe officials to obtain weapons.

Some 411 inmates were killed and 737 more were injured during 2005, according to the watchdog group Venezuelan Prisons Observatory.

Some 40 percent of prisoners have yet to be sentenced, according to the government, and in some facilities inmates have taken visitors hostage to demand their cases be dealt with more quickly.