Bolivia inmates protest prison closure plan


The fence and surveillance tower of the San Juan de Lurigancho prison in Lima, Peru's largest prison.



Inmates at Bolivia's biggest prison said Saturday they are protesting against government plans to close the jail.

The prisoners at San Pedro jail in La Paz have said they should instead be given help to integrate back into society.

The country's prison service, in turn, said shutting the prison would put a stop to "cocaine trafficking and other abuses" carried out by inmates.

The decision came following allegations that a 12-year-old girl became pregnant after being repeatedly raped by her father and other men in the jail.

Ever Quilche, a spokesman for the prisoners, has denied the rape and said the girl was "fine."

"There is no proof that the girl was raped, mistreated or touched," he told BBC News. "We are waiting for medical tests so that we can deny the allegation."

"We have been abandoned and we don't know what to do if the jail closes," Quilche continued.

"We need jobs and education so that we can be reintegrated into society."

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The girl was among hundreds of children who had no choice but to live in San Pedro with their relatives while they served their sentences.

Head of the prison service Ramiro Llanos said the alleged rape was "the straw that broke the camel's back."

"We have had enough of abuses being committed inside the jail," he told BBC News.

"We cannot control the police. They have orders to stop drugs and alcohol from entering the prison, but to no avail.

"So we will close down the prison altogether."