Venezuela prison riot: Gunfire erupts and tear gas is used


Relatives of inmates kneel during a demonstration after a riot in front of La Planta prison in Caracas on April 30, 2012. The authorities of the Ministry of Correctional Services are trying to negotiate voluntary transfers to other prisons.



Hundreds of inmates at a Venezuela prison began rioting 11 days ago in protest of plans to close the jail and move them to other facilities.

According to BBC News, heavy gunfire was heard from inside La Planta prison in Caracas on Tuesday. Relatives gathered outside were in a panic while waiting for news of what was going on and started throwing stones at police, who responded with tear gas.

More from GlobalPost: Over 500 deaths last year inside Venezuelan prisons

The prison's closure was announced after two escape attempts were made. BBC reported that many inmates have already been relocated, but that hundreds have refused to move for fear of their lives in other overcrowded jails.

Top prisons official Iris Varela appealed to those involved for calm and urged the inmates to "give up their violent attitude, listen to their relatives," according to the Press Association. "We know there are some who are resisting the evacuation. However, they aren't right to be acting in that violent way."

Maria Escobar, whose brother is in La Planta, said relatives were right to protest out of concern for those living inside the prison clashing with police, reported the Associated Press.

"If they go in there like this, there's going to be a massacre," she told the AP.

More from GlobalPost: Venezuela fines TV channel for coverage of prison riots

The gunfire died down after a couple of hours, according to BBC.

The AP reported Varela said authorities would continue talking to inmates about being transferred voluntarily to other prisons. She said La Planta is unfit to hold "any human being." Venezuela's prisons were built to hold about 12,000 inmates, but officials have said they currently hold about 47,000.