• Monday, Nov 28, 2022
  • Last Update : 09:54 am

Riot in Colombia prison over virus fears leaves 23 dead

  • Published at 05:46 am March 23rd, 2020
Riot in Colombia prison over virus fears leaves 23 dead
A view of smoke coming out of La Modelo prison after a riot by prisoners demanding the government to take healthcare measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bogota, Colombia on March 22, 2020 Reuters

Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said it was a 'sad and painful day' as she confirmed the death toll at the capital's La Modelo prison

Rioting that swept through a crowded prison overnight in the Colombian capital Bogota left 23 inmates dead Sunday amid rising tensions over the spread of the coronavirus in the penitentiary system.

Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said it was a "sad and painful day" as she confirmed the death toll at the capital's La Modelo prison.

Cabello described the violence as an attempted mass breakout, part of what she said was a coordinated plan with inmates who caused disturbances in 13 jails across the country. 

The minister rejected accusations by rights groups that the riots were sparked by unsanitary conditions inside a prison system that was woefully unprepared to face the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is no health problem that would have caused the escape plan and these riots," Cabello said. 

"Today, there is not a single infection, and no prisoners, nor administration or custodial officials, that have the coronavirus."

The violence occurred as the capital was on a weekend lockdown to test the readiness of its seven million population to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The epicenter of the unrest was in La Modelo, Bogota's second largest prison after La Picota, where protests also erupted on Saturday night.

According to Cabello, 83 inmates and seven guards were injured in the disturbances inside La Modelo. Around half the injured prisoners were hospitalized, and two of the guards were in "critical condition."

"There were no escapes," she added.

Worried relatives 

Dozens of family members ignored the weekend lockdown to congregate outside the prison on Sunday to demand news of their relatives.

"In this moment, we do not know who is alive and who is dead," said Yinna Gordillo, a 23-year-old who told AFP she was awaiting news of her brother.

A pall of black smoke hung over the prison Sunday as family members were kept at a distance by a cordon of riot police.

Bogota's mayor Claudia Lopez criticized the justice ministry and the prison authorities for delays in informing "family members and citizens about what happened."

Attorney General Fernando Carrillo has asked the government to immediately declare "a prison emergency to guarantee health conditions, enforce rights and preserve public order."

The country's Ombudsman's Office has backed the proposal, saying it would facilitate releases of prisoners aged over 60 to protect them from the coronavirus.

The Ombudsman has repeatedly criticized overcrowding inside the country's 138 prisons, which house 123,000 inmates.

Under control 

The justice ministry said prisoners had run amok during a night of violence, and some would face charges of "attempted murder, personal injury, fire and damage to the property of others."

"Additionally, there were fights between the inmates themselves," the ministry said.

The head of Colombia's prison authorities, General Norberto Mujica, said his forces had taken back full control.

"Our guards prevented the escape from being carried out. We achieved that today and as a result are not looking for 5,000 prisoners that would have escaped."

Colombia's President Ivan Duque said the country, which had 231 coronavirus cases and two deaths on Sunday, would enter a 19-day quarantine from midnight on Tuesday.


Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail