Teen Inmate Dies After Fire at Youth Prison in Panama

PANAMA CITY – One of the seven inmates who was seriously burned in a fire this week at a youth prison northeast of Panama City died at Santo Tomas Hospital in this capital.

Erick Alexis Batista, 16, died Tuesday of multiple organ failure, the head of the hospital’s intensive care unit, Dr. Luis Carlos Bravo, said at a press conference.

The dead boy was serving a seven-month sentence for illegal gun possession at the facility in Tocumen.

Authorities are still trying to determine the cause of Sunday’s fire, which followed a disturbance mounted by Batista and six other inmates demanding better food and drinking water.

Bravo said that the other six patients are in serious condition and that two of them are experiencing kidney problems.

The Attorney General’s Office launched a probe Monday into what caused the riot, why firefighters did not enter the prison in a timely fashion and whether police took appropriate action.

Chief medical examiner Humberto Mas told the press that the institution is investigating whether Batista’s death was caused by the burns he suffered in the fire or by inhaling the gases deployed by the police inside the prison to bring the riot under control.

He also said that authorities are awaiting the report by the doctors who attended to Batista and the other victims to learn if, in addition to their burns, they had any other kinds of injuries or trauma from beatings they may have received by prison guards or police.

Finally, Public Safety Minister Jose Raul Mulino said that on Wednesday he signed the order to withdraw members of the National Police from Panama’s prisons within six months.

The National Police has been the main force guarding the Central American country’s prisons, a situation that has been criticized by civil and human rights organizations that blame the cops for rampant human rights violations in the penitentiaries. EFE

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