Venezuelan inmates hold 26 prison workers hostage
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Prison inmates took more than 50 guards and other prison workers hostage earlier this month but have released more than two dozen after negotiations, Venezuelan authorities said.
Inmates at Tocuyito prison agreed to release 25 hostages over the weekend and are still holding captive 26 others, regional prison administrator Reinaldo Rangel said.
"What we've asked is for them to put aside that attitude," Rangel said Monday in comments posted on the Venezuelan website Noticias24. "They should free them and turn over their weapons."
He first confirmed the hostages' release on Sunday, and his remarks were the most detailed by a government official since activists reported the hostages seized on Oct. 14.
Inmates at the prison in north-central Venezuela released the group of captives after authorities agreed to transfer 30 prisoners to other facilities, Rangel said.
The inmates are demanding improved prison conditions and the release of some inmates. Rangel said talks with the prisoners were continuing.
The prison employees still being held include 22 women and four men, and none of them have been harmed, Rangel said. Those freed included 17 prison guards and eight administrative employees, he said.
Inmates have regularly seized hostages to press for improved conditions in Venezuela's violent and severely overcrowded prisons. Those abducted have often included inmates' relatives seized during visiting hours, but recently prison guards and other officials have also been kidnapped.
In May, inmates at a Caracas prison seized the warden and 14 other officers, holding them hostage for more than a day before freeing them. In that incident, the prisoners agreed to free their captives after authorities pledged to investigate their complaints that several inmates had been abused.
President Hugo Chavez's government has recognized prison crowding as a problem, and a newly appointed prisons minister, Iris Varela, has pledged to come up with solutions. The countries' more than 30 prisons were designed to hold about 12,000 prisoners but are currently packed with about 47,000 inmates, according to official figures.