Riot in Colombia prison leaves 23 dead, government says

Bogota was under weekend coronavirus lockdown

Relatives of prisoners are seen outside La Modelo prison, after a riot started by prisoners demanding government health measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bogota, Colombia March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Leonardo Munoz. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
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Rioting in a crowded prison overnight in the Colombian capital, Bogota, killed 23 inmates and injured 90, Justice Minister Margarita Cabello announced on Sunday.

The riot was triggered by an attempted mass breakout from La Modelo prison as the capital was on a weekend lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Cabello said.

There were riots in several of the country's prisons she said.

La Modelo is Bogota's second largest prison after La Picota, where protests also erupted on Saturday night.

Ms Cabello said 83 inmates and seven guards were injured in La Modelo.

Half of the injured prisoners were admitted to hospital and two of the guards were in "critical condition".

"There were no escapes," Ms Cabello said.

The head of Colombia's prison authorities, Gen Norberto Mujica, said his officers had taken back full control of the prison.

"Our guards prevented the escape from being carried out," Gen Mujica said.

"As a result, we are not looking for 5,000 prisoners who would have escaped."

The government rejected accusations that the riots were sparked by unsanitary conditions inside a prison unprepared to face the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is no health problem that would have caused the escape plan and these riots," Ms Cabello said.

"Today there is not a single infection and no prisoners, nor administration or custodial officials, have the coronavirus."