CARACAS, Venezuela A bloody riot erupted in a Venezuelan prison when National Guard troops clashed with inmates, and Venezuelan media reported that dozens were killed.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro called the violence tragic early Saturday on television and said the authorities had launched an investigation.
He and other officials did not give a death toll from the riot Friday at Uribana prison in the central Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto.
The newspaper Ultimas Noticias reported on its website that 54 people were killed. The television channel Globovision reported at least 50 killed and about 90 injured. Both cited Ruy Medina, the director of Central Hospital in the city.
Humberto Prado, an activist who leads the watchdog group Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, said in a statement that inmates’ relatives and media accounts put the toll at 54 killed and 88 injured.
Penitentiary Service Minister Iris Varela said Friday that the riot broke out when groups of inmates attacked National Guard troops who were attempting to carry out an inspection.
Varela said the violence had affected a number of prisoners and officials, but said the authorities would hold off until control had been re-established at the prison to confirm the toll. She said the government decided to send troops to search the prison after receiving reports of clashes between groups of inmates during the past two days.
The death toll provided by Medina rose late Friday after he had initially reported four killed and dozens injured. Ultimas Noticias reported that the victims included a Protestant pastor and a member of the National Guard, as well as inmates.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles condemned the government’s handling of the country’s overcrowded and violent prisons.