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Fifty-one inmates die in Colombia prison riot

Fifty-one inmates have died during a riot in a prison in the Colombian city of Tuluá in one of the worst recent incidents of its kind in the country.

The director of the national prisons agency said a fire had started during a protest by prisoners overnight.

“It is a tragic and disastrous event,” Gen Tito Castellanos told Caracol Radio on Tuesday. “There was a situation, apparently a riot, and the prisoners lit some mattresses and a conflagration occurred that unfortunately triggered the death of 49 prisoners.”

He said later that two other people had died after being taken to hospital.

The prison in the southwestern city has 1,267 inmates. The cell block where the fire occurred houses 180.

Colombian prisons are highly overcrowded, with a capacity for 81,000 people but housing about 97,000, according to official figures.

The country’s president, Iván Duque, who is visiting Portugal, tweeted that the incident would be investigated. “We regret the events in the prison in Tuluá, Valle del Cauca. I am in touch with Castellanos and I have given instructions to carry forward investigations that allow us to clarify this terrible situation,” he wrote.

Colombia released some prisoners during the coronavirus pandemic after more than 20 inmates were killed during protests in 2020 against crowded conditions and lack of services.

Prison violence “obliges the complete re-imagining of prisons policy toward a humanization of jail and dignity for the prisoner”, said the president-elect, Gustavo Petro, who will take office in August.

Hundreds of people have died in prisons in neighboring Ecuador in the past year, in what the government says is violence connected to the rivalry between drug gangs, which it has failed to quell. Many prisons in Latin America are severely overcrowded.

Courtesy of The Guardian


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