Venezuelan prison fight leaves 7 dead, 37 injured

By the Associated Press | August 18, 2011 | 5:20 PM EDT

Watched by guards, inmates sit on the ground after a riot at the Cabimas's prison in Cabimas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Aug .17, 2011. A confrontation broke out at the Cabimas's prison yesterday afternoon while relatives of inmates were visiting the prison which left seven inmates dead and 37 people injured of which eight of the injured were visitors, Zulia state Safety Secretary Odalis Caldera said. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Diario Version Final)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Inmates brawled in an overcrowded prison in western Venezuela, killing seven prisoners and injuring 37 people, including eight visitors, a police chief said Thursday.

The fighting at the Cabimas lockup erupted Wednesday afternoon while relatives of inmates were visiting the prison, Zulia state Safety Secretary Odalis Caldera said.

Authorities regained control of the prison, but the facility remains severely overcrowded. It was built for 120 inmates but holds 619.

Such problems are common in Venezuela's 34 prisons, which officials say hold nearly four times more people than their intended capacity.

Less than a month ago, violence in the same prison left one inmate dead and 16 injured with burns.

The fight follows a nearly monthlong prison uprising that pitted armed inmates against National Guard troops at the Rodeo prisons near the capital of Caracas. That standoff ended last month after gunfights between troops and inmates that killed one prisoner and two soldiers and wounded 20 troops. Four more inmates who escaped were slain by soldiers.

Last year, 476 people died and 967 were injured in prison violence in Venezuela, according to figures compiled by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.