Cardinal urges end to Venezuela prison revolt

The Roman Catholic Church's top representative in Venezuela urged inmates on Sunday to end a revolt at a prison that has lasted more than a week.

"They should put down their weapons," Cardinal Jorge Urosa said.

Urosa told Union Radio that authorities must guarantee human rights at El Rodeo II prison in the city of Guatire, just outside the capital of Caracas.

Armed inmates have repelled efforts by National Guard troops to retake control of the prison.

Prisoners and troops have engaged in sporadic gunbattles since the military launched a weapons search June 17 at the adjacent El Rodeo I prison. One inmate and two soldiers have died in the violence and at least 20 troops suffered wounds, officials say.

Inmates claim several fellow prisoners have also suffered injuries and urgently require medical treatment.

Venezuela's 30 prisons were built to house 12,500 inmates, but hold about 49,000, says the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, a group that monitors prison conditions. Last year, 476 people died and 967 were injured in prison violence, according to figures compiled by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.