, CARACAS, Nov 4 – A gang fight inside a Venezuelan prison has left eight inmates dead and two others injured, an army commander said Thursday, as prisoners released three of four police officers they were holding hostage.
Army General Hector Coronado said that the first part of negotiations with inmates of a prison in the western state of Tachira involved the release of a police officer being held hostage, as well as the delivery of the eight bodies.
The inmates later released two more police hostages after authorities bowed to prisoner demands to transfer 21 inmates to other prisons.
“Negotiations are ongoing to resolve the problem” and release the final hostage, Coronado, commander of the army’s second infantry division, told reporters.
He added that there would be no military intervention to control the situation.
Violence broke out Wednesday between rival gangs in a cell block of the Cuartel de Prisiones prison.
Venezuela’s overcrowded, poorly run prisons have been the scene of repeated uprisings and deadly gang violence.
The country has 50,000 prisoners but room for only 14,000 of them, according to official statistics. Human rights organizations say 300 inmates a year die in prison.
Tachira Governor Cesar Perez Vivas told reporters the Cuartel de Prisiones was built to house 120 inmates, “not the 376 that are currently there.”
The overcrowding creates “tension that becomes a breeding ground” for violence, he said.
Perez said he would launch an investigation to determine how weapons that were used in the clashes were smuggled into the prison. He also said he issued a legal request to move the most dangerous inmates out of his local prison to a prison run by the Venezuelan government.