20 killed in Venezuelan prison violence
updated 2:06 PM EDT, Mon August 20, 2012
- NEW: The opposition presidential candidate decries the "prison system disaster"
- Two "heavily armed" groups are behind the violence, an official says
- Anxious relatives stand outside the prison, awaiting the release of victims' names
- An inmate's family member is among the dead, nation's prison minister says
Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- More than 20 people were killed after violence broke out at a Venezuelan prison over the weekend, an official said Monday.
Two "heavily armed" groups inside the Yare I prison clashed Sunday, Iris Varela, the South American nation's prison minister, told state-run VTV.
An inmate's family member was among the dead, she said.
Anxious relatives waited outside the prison Monday, demanding that authorities release the names of those who were killed or wounded in the fighting, CNN affiliate Globovision reported.
Chavez claims capture of U.S. spy
Program could help inmates, save money
School now holds Syrian rebel prisoners
More than 300 prisoners died in Venezuelan prisons in the first half of 2012, according to the nonprofit Venezuelan Prison Observatory. Inmates' family members have accused officials of abusing prisoners. Authorities have blamed prisoners for the violence.
There are about 47,000 inmates in Venezuela's 33 prisons, which were originally built to house 12,000 prisoners, the observatory says.
Varela told VTV on Monday morning that the prison was calm and that authorities would punish those responsible.
"They cannot keep committing crimes in the prisons and go unpunished," she said.
The Yare prison is in the northern state of Miranda, where at least 25 people died after a standoff at another prison last year.
Prison violence has become a high-profile issue on the campaign trail leading up to Venezuela's October 7 presidential vote.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski and his supporters have proposed prison reforms, criticizing officials for delayed court proceedings and substandard facilities.
"After 14 years of this government, who are they going to blame for the prison system disaster? How many more dead?" Capriles said in a Twitter post Monday.
On Monday, Varela said the opposition has no moral standing to criticize the government's handling of the situation, arguing that such problems have also persisted in states led by opposition governors.
"They cannot attack us for a problem that we know and recognize exists," she said, according to VTV.
Journalist Osmary Hernandez contributed to this report.
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 2:18 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.