Venezuela: prison uprising ending after 27 days
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A 27-day prison uprising by hundreds of inmates was ending on Wednesday as prisoners began to surrender, Venezuela's information minister said.
Information Minister Andres Izarra said on Twitter that "the process of liberation has begun" at El Rodeo II prison east of Caracas. About 1,000 inmates have been resisting authorities at the prison since June 17.
It wasn't immediately clear what led to the breakthrough.
Grisell Zorrilla, a spokeswoman for prisoners' relatives, told The Associated Press that the inmates were being taken out of the prison and that they all appeared well.
A group of armed inmates had remained holed up in the prison during the past month, preventing troops from entering.
The inmates began the standoff after thousands of troops stormed adjacent El Rodeo I prison in a weapons search days after a bloody riot. The action set off gunfights between troops and inmates, leaving one prisoner and two National Guard soldiers dead, as well as 20 soldiers wounded.
Authorities said that in last month's search they seized seven rifles, five shotguns, 20 handguns, eight hand grenades, 5,000 rifle cartridges, 53 kilograms (116 pounds) of cocaine and the equivalent of more than $24,000 in Venezuelan currency.
Autorities decided to clamp down on the prisons last month after a prison riot on June 12 that left 22 dead, including one visitor.
Venezuela's severely crowded prisons have suffered repeated violent outbursts as rival gangs often fight for control of cellblocks and sell weapons and drugs with the help of corrupt prison guards.
Venezuela's 34 prisons hold more than 44,000 inmates, according to official figures.
Last year, 476 people died and 967 were injured in prison violence, according to figures compiled by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)