Several media reported unanimously that 54 people died and more than 80 were injured in the detention center in uribana (state of lara). Vice-president nicolas maduro spoke of a "tragic mix-up" and announced an investigation. The militars wanted to search the prison to confiscate smuggled-in weapons and to end power struggles between rival gangs.
The deployment of the soldiers began on friday at 07.00 o'clock in the morning. According to the minister, iris varela, the action was taken in response to information about disputes between gangs. "Due to violent incidents in the prison of uribana, a search became necessary to completely disarm the inmates of the detention center," it said in a statement. When the national guard began the operation, it was attacked by the leaders of the gangs.
Varela also blamed the opposition TV station globovision, social networks on the internet and the website of the daily newspaper "el impulso" for the outbreak of violence. Their announcement of the search operation on friday was "a catalyst for violence" that led to the mutiny. Two hours after the operation began, detonations were heard in the prison, according to media reports. Grenades are said to have exploded. 20 ambulances were deployed. Around 2500 men and 140 women are imprisoned in the complex.
Vice-president maduro returned from cuba only last night, where he had once again visited the cancer-stricken head of state, hugo chavez. He regretted the incident. The prisons had to be governed by the law and be centers for resocialization, he said.
Opposition politician henrique capriles radonski accused the government of being incapable of controlling the situation in the prisons. "How many more deaths must there be before the government recognizes its failure and there is change??" he asked. The authorities are not in a position to provide security in the detention centers or on the streets.
In venezuela, bloody clashes occur again and again in the often overcrowded prisons. Often it is a matter of settlements between rival gangs. The weapons are usually smuggled into the detention centers by visitors or bribed guards. Last august, 25 prisoners died in bloody fights between gangs in the yare I prison in the city of guatire near caracas.