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Venezuelan authorities guard the Jose Gregorio Hernandez Hospital after an interior ministry team tried to take the prison by force that in Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela, 16 August 2017. EPA/Pedro Zapata
Venezuelan authorities guard the Jose Gregorio Hernandez Hospital after an interior ministry team tried to take the prison by force that in Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela, 16 August 2017. EPA/Pedro Zapata

37 die in clash between inmates, police at Venezuelan prison

 As part of an effort to curb prison violence, the leftist government has imposed a militarized administration in roughly half of Venezuela's penal…

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At least 37 people were killed and 14 law enforcement personnel wounded Wednesday when armed inmates resisted authorities' attempt to impose order at a prison in the southern state of Amazonas, the Venezuelan Attorney General's Office said.

"The deaths occurred during a seizure of the Amazonas Judicial Detention Center (CDJA) in which 14 officials were also wounded," the AG Office said in a statement that offered no details.

Amazonas Gov. Liborio Guarulla, an opponent of President Nicolas Maduro, described the episode as a "massacre" caused by an interior ministry team that tried to take the prison by force.

 A source with first-hand knowledge of the events told EFE that the trouble began during a search of the CDJA by a police task force.

 The 37 inmates killed represented nearly 40 percent of the jail's current population, the source said.

 Venezuela, with 166 people behind bars for every 100,000 residents, has the region's third-smallest prison population, yet its penitentiary system is among the most violent.

 As part of an effort to curb prison violence, the leftist government has imposed a militarized administration in roughly half of Venezuela's penal institutions.

US Vice President Mike Pence said Monday in Cartagena, Colombia, that Venezuela is a failed state that threatens the security and prosperity of the entire hemisphere.

"A failed state in Venezuela threatens the security and prosperity of our entire hemisphere and the people of the United States," Pence told reporters after meeting with a number of Venezuelans who had left their country to escape the ongoing crisis and migrated to Colombia.

In that sense, he repeated US President Donald Trump's words that "the United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles" and slides into dictatorship.

Pence mentioned the Constituent Assembly, as well as the "poverty" that country is suffering, while noting that "more than 130 brave Venezuelans have already died in the desperate fight for democracy."

For the vice president, the situation in Venezuela "will drive more illegal migration, compromising our borders, damaging our economies."

"President Trump is absolutely determined to marshal all of the support of nations across this region to see democracy restored in Venezuela," Pence said.

Finally, he said the United States has a long history of generosity toward refugees, and expressed US willingness to help a Colombia faced with a flood of Venezuelan migrants in order to avoid economic hardships and a tense political situation.

According to Migracion Colombia, some 50,000 people a day cross from Venezuela into Colombia looking to buy basic products that can't be found back home.

In addition, between 300,000 and 350,000 Venezuelans have come to Colombia "determined to stay."

Since April 1, Venezuela has been the scene of demonstrations for and against the government, and which have left a death toll of more than 120. However, recently appointed Attorney General Tarek William Saab said the number registered by his predecessor was too high because it included people who died in situations other than the demonstrations.

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