At least 13 inmates are dead after prisoners in a Venezuelan prison rioted, stormed the on-site pharmacy, and swallowed whatever drugs they could get their hands on. The deceased inmates at the David Viloria correctional center in Lara state had all been part of a hunger strike that began Monday to protest prison conditions, Al Jazeera reports; CNN notes that the strike was also to rail against a recent reported personnel decision. Officials say that the previously peaceful strike turned violent yesterday, with prisoners busting down doors and walls and heading for the pharmacy, where they indulged in antibiotics, meds for high blood pressure, anti-epilepsy drugs, and alcohol, CNN reports. Another 145 suffered drug poisoning from the binge.
Relatives of inmates have reportedly been waiting outside the prison since Tuesday, and the country's National Guard was brought in to hold back these family members and the media. Venezuelan Prisons Watch, a nongovernmental group, says the death toll could be even higher, claiming 17 died at the prison, with another four succumbing after being brought to a correctional center in Maracay, Al Jazeera notes. Venezuela's prisons are rife with problems, the watch group says: It says in a recent report that 150 inmates died in riots in just the first half of 2014 and cites such ongoing issues as malnutrition, crowding problems, and poor health care. The Ministry for Public Power of Penitentiary Services, however, claims this particular prison is one of 70 newer facilities meant to combat poor conditions and human-rights violations, CNN notes. (This Brazil prison riot got gruesome.)