CARACAS – At least 37 people were killed and 14 law enforcement personnel wounded on Wednesday when armed inmates resisted authorities’ attempt to impose order at a prison in the southern state of Amazonas, the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office said.
“The deaths occurred during a seizure of the Amazonas Judicial Detention Center (CDJA) in which 14 officials were also wounded,” the AG Office said in a statement that offered no details.
Amazonas Gov. Liborio Guarulla, an opponent of President Nicolas Maduro, described the episode as a “massacre” caused by an interior ministry team that tried to take the prison by force.
A source with first-hand knowledge of the events told EFE that the trouble began during a search of the CDJA by a police task force.
The 37 inmates killed represented nearly 40 percent of the jail’s current population, the source said.
Venezuela, with 166 people behind bars for every 100,000 residents, has the region’s third-smallest prison population, yet its penitentiary system is among the most violent.
As part of an effort to curb prison violence, the leftist government has imposed a militarized administration in roughly half of Venezuela’s penal institutions.