Latest Venezuela jail violence kills 22: Govt - Los Hechos y el Derecho TV LHD TV

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CARACAS - THE death toll has reached 22 in the latest riot by armed prisoners in Venezuela's violent and overcrowded jails, the government said on Thursday.

President Hugo Chavez's government announced this week a new Prisons Ministry to try to control chaos inside jails where inmates traffic drugs, carry guns, mastermind crime outside via telephones and control whole blocks by themselves.

'We acknowledge much work is needed and we lament this incident,' Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami said.

Twenty-one inmates and one visitor died during weekend gunfights between gangs controlling two blocks at the Rodeo I prison in Guarenas town outside Caracas, Mr El Aissami said, giving the latest official version of the incident.

Media and relatives say the real toll is higher, possibly closer to double that, with bodies still strewn around the premises.

'There are reasons to suspect more deaths,' said Humberto Prado, who helps run the Venezuelan Prison Observatory non-government organization that tracks prison violence closely. Rights groups say Rodeo was built for 750 people, but now holds 3,600, while at a national level Venezuela's 49,000 inmates are living in space intended for 13,000. -- REUTERS

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