Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemala prison riot leaves eight inmates dead

An inmate at a maximum security jail in Guatemala (04/23/2010) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Fighting between inmates in Guatemala's overcrowded prisons is not uncommon

A riot at a prison in Guatemala has left at least eight inmates dead and more than 20 injured.

The authorities said the inmates were drinking on New Year's Eve when a fight broke out. At least two prisoners were beheaded by fellow inmates.

Rioters set fire to mattresses and bedsheets and cut power in the jail.

The prison, in the port city of Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean coast, was built for 175 prisoners but now houses more than 900.

Street gang members make up the bulk of Guatemala's prison population. Deadly gang warfare inside prison walls is not uncommon.

Severe overcrowding makes it hard for guards to control the prisoners - who are often heavily armed with home-made weapons as well as firearms smuggled into the jail.

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