CARACAS, Venezuela -- The unofficial death toll rose to 55 on Saturday from a ongoing prison riot as human-rights critics urged the government to improve Venezuela's overcrowded jails, described as some of the worst in Latin America.
National Guard members and police at midday were still trying to quell the riot at the Uribana prison in the western city of Barquisimeto, where violence broke out Thursday night when authorities began a search of cells for hidden weapons.
The prison is one of many severely overcrowded jails in Venezuela. It is reputed to be dominated by gangs whose tentacles extend to criminal enterprises across the country, including the sale of drugs and control of buildings and farms occupied by squatters.
Although the government has not released totals of dead and wounded, Raul Medina, director of Central Hospital of Barquisimeto, told reporters early Saturday that the toll was 55 dead. Other sources reported that 93 people had been wounded.