New unrest at Chile prison where 81 inmates died

SANTIAGO, Chile – Prisoners rioted briefly Friday night at the Chilean prison where 81 inmates died in a fire set during fighting between rival gangs two days earlier, authorities said.

Luis Masferrer, director of Chile’s prisons, said police quickly quelled the violence and firefighters put out a blaze started in a cell block.

During the troubles at San Miguel prison in the capital, hundreds of inmates’ relatives protested outside and threw rocks at police.

Masferrer said some prisoners rioted after officials announced that 35 inmates considered the most dangerous would be moved to a prison in Rancagua, a city about 50 miles (85 kilometers) south of Santiago.

Lawmaker Gustavo Husbun said five inmates were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and 20 others were being treated at the prison’s infirmary for minor injuries. He said two police officers also were hurt.

Early Wednesday, fighting broke out at the prison between rival groups of inmates. By the time authorities regained control, 81 prisoners had died, many of them when a fire that erupted during the clashes burned a cell block.

Tensions are high inside the facility, which was designed to house 700 inmates but holds 1,900.

President Sebastian Pinera responded to the deaths by announcing a $460 million plan to improve conditions for Chile’s prisoners. It includes purchasing prefabricated modular prisons for minimum-security inmates to help reduce overcrowding in the country’s prisons.

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