Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:34PM
Inmates receive military training in a sector of El Rodeo prison, where a new penitentiary system is being implemented, in Guatire, Venezuela, July 1, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Inmates receive military training in a sector of El Rodeo prison, where a new penitentiary system is being implemented, in Guatire, Venezuela, July 1, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Venezuelan authorities say at least 12 people have been killed in a prison riot, amid protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Officials said on Wednesday that 11 people were also injured in the violence, which broke out between rival gangs in Puente Ayala penitentiary in the eastern state of Anzoategui.

Prison Affairs Minister Iris Varela had initially said only six people had died. Later reports said the death toll could be much higher.

Economic problems have affected the government’s plans for building new prison facilities. The country has some 30 prisons with close to 50,000 inmates, most of them suffering from overcrowding and gang violence.

The deaths come amid reports of protests and clashes across Venezuela. Demonstrations escalated earlier this month after the Supreme Court moved to strip the parliament of its last vestiges of power. A ruling was issued but it was later withdrawn amid pressure from the opposition. Protests have continued unabated as the opposition wants Maduro to step down.

Venezuelan opposition activists clash with police during a demonstration against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, April 24, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The president is blamed for Venezuela’s economic woes while the opposition also censures the 54-year-old leader for what it calls his lack of tolerance for dissent. Maduro says the Western-backed opposition has hugely capitalized on the global slump in oil prices to try to remove him from office.

More than a dozen people have been killed in the recent wave of anti-government protests in Venezuela.