Rights Group Says 23 Inmates Are Killed in Venezuelan Jail Riot

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CARACAS — Clashes between armed inmates and guards in a crowded Venezuelan jail on Friday left at least 23 prisoners dead, a rights groups said.

The clashes started when inmates, many armed, refused to let the authorities enter, fearing they would be robbed, said Humberto Prado of the Venezuelan Prison Observatory.

At least 18 guards were injured, Mr. Prado said, adding that there were reports of at least one explosion.

The prison is in the central state of Portuguesa, 220 miles from Caracas. Designed to hold 250 people, it now bulges with 540 inmates, he said.

Mr. Prado said that more than 130 inmates have died since 2017 in three separate riots across the country.

Venezuelan authorities did not immediately comment.

Venezuela is in the midst of a historic political and social crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine. Critics say about 30 prisons spread across Venezuela are severely overcrowded, and are often run by gangs that traffic drugs and weapons.

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