Venezuela prison brawl toll rises to 26



Venezuela prison brawl toll rises to 26 Caracas: The toll in last weekend's battle between heavily armed inmate gangs at the Yare I prison near Caracas has risen to 26, said authorities.

The initial casualty report, issued on Monday, spoke of 25 dead and 43 injured.

Among those killed in Sunday's confrontation was an inmate's relative who was at the prison for visiting day.

The process of identifying the bodies was completed on Wednesday, the Prisons Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry offered no information on the condition of the 43 people hurt in the incident, including 14 visiting family members.

Authorities suspect the fight began when someone fired a shot as leaders of the rival gangs were holding a discussion, Prisons Minister Iris Varela said earlier this week.

The initial investigation also points to culpability on the part of both uniformed and civilian prison personnel and some inmates' relatives, Varela said.

"Those who put the guns here in the prison are just as responsible for the deaths as the people who pulled the triggers," she said, promising a "good investigation".

The penitentiary is located in the town of Yare, about 70 km south of Caracas.

The Venezuelan government says the serious problem with weapons inside the country's vastly overcrowded prisons will be addressed as part of a restructuring of the penal system.

Violence in the Andean nation's prisons claimed 304 lives in the first half of the year, an increase of 15 percent over the same period in 2011, the independent Venezuelan Prisons Observatory said on Monday.

IANS