November 27, 2014 / 3:38 PM / 4 years ago

Venezuela says 13 inmates die of overdose after robbing infirmary ward

CARACAS (Reuters) - Thirteen inmates have died after breaking into a Venezuelan jail’s infirmary and ingesting medical products including pure alcohol and antibiotics, the government said on Thursday, in the latest outbreak of unrest in the country’s turbulent prisons.

A total of 145 prisoners were intoxicated during a revolt in the David Viloria penitentiary center in the western state of Lara on Monday, the government said in a statement.

Inmates had launched a hunger strike to demand the dismissal of an official, and the protest quickly spiraled.

“Around 8.30 a.m. they became violent and started to break the walls and the doors of the confined areas, so the National Guard was called in for support,” the statement said.

Hours later, “some prisoners were in a state of overdose after violently entering the infirmary area, robbing the pharmacy ... and ingesting, without prescriptions, multiple pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, antihypertensives, aspirin, absolute alcohol, among other things.”

There was no independent confirmation of the incident.

“I doubt the official version,” said Marianela Sanchez, legal coordinator with the Prison Observatory non-governmental organization, accusing the government of repeatedly blaming inmates for incidents at overcrowded and dangerous prisons.

“I don’t think an inmate grabbed a flask and drank it, that’s stupid,” she said, calling for an investigation. “Something happened and the results are catastrophic.”

Also this week, 41 inmates escaped from a hole in the wall of a prison in Los Teques, near the capital Caracas.

Venezuela’s prisons are notorious for gang fights, riots and widespread access to drugs and weapons.

Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Peter Galloway and Mohammad Zargham

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