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Venezuelan authorities struggle to regain control of prison

By the CNN Wire Staff
The Venezuelan National Guard charges relatives rioting outside of El Rodeo I prison on Friday.
The Venezuelan National Guard charges relatives rioting outside of El Rodeo I prison on Friday.
  • 2,500 inmates are transferred to other prisons
  • At least 25 people have been killed at the prison complex in the last week
  • Anxious family members gather outside the prison
  • Venezuela
  • Prisons
  • South America

Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- Authorities in Venezuela are fighting to regain control of a prison complex where armed inmates and troops have been clashing for days.

Some 2,500 inmates have been transferred from the Rodeo I prison to other prisons, Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami said Sunday, according to the state-run AVN news agency. He said about 1,000 inmates remain at that prison, it reported.

Also Sunday, a fire tore through parts of Rodeo I, AVN reported. An official told the agency the blaze was started by a short circuit and that no prisoners were injured by the flames.

Meanwhile, attempts to negotiate continued inside the Rodeo II prison, where inmates have refused to disarm.

Of the 1,000 prisoners housed inside Rodeo II, a group of about 50 are causing problems, said El Aissami, AVN has reported.

At least 25 people have died at the prison complex, located in the northern state of Miranda, within the last week.

Two Venezuelan national guardsmen and one prisoner were killed Friday, and 22 people died during a riot on June 12.

Shooting could be heard outside Rodeo I after nearly 5,000 forces, including guardsmen, were ordered by the government to enter the prisons to clear it of weapons Friday.

Authorities seized seven rifles, five shotguns, three carbines, one submachine gun, 20 guns and four revolvers, National Guard Gen. Luis Motta Dominguez has said, according to AVN. They also found 91 clips and eight hand grenades.

Violence in overcrowded Venezuelan prisons is not uncommon.

According to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, a watchdog group, 124 people died in Venezuelan prisons during the first three months of this year. That figure does not include the latest outbreak of violence and represents a 22% increase over the 102 people who died during the same period a year ago, the group said.

Family members of inmates gathered outside the prison complex, many fearing the worst as sporadic gunshots rung out.

Petra Alvarez said Sunday she has been waiting days for news about her son.

"I want to know about my son," she said. "I'm waiting to find out whether he is alive or dead."

Journalist Osmary Hernandez contributed to this report.