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Five killed, 19 wounded in shootout at maximum-security prison

June 12, 1997

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Five inmates were killed and 19 wounded early today in a riot and shootout between guards and prisoners at a maximum security prison in Bogota, authorities said.

The violence at La Modelo prison occurred after inmates took two guards hostage, then freed them and tried to gain access to a cellblock roof, said Miller Rubio, the national prisons spokesman.

There have been more than 30 riots so far this year in Colombia’s overcrowded prisons by prisoners demanding better conditions.

Eight wounded inmates were evacuated to an outside hospital, some of them with knife wounds, Rubio said.

Authorities did not know how inmates obtained the guns, but it is not uncommon for weapons to be smuggled into Colombia’s prisons.

Hours after the shootout, police and soldiers ringed the prison, and inmates in three of its eight cellblocks had not returned to their cells. A team of prosecutors and ombudsmen entered to prison to talk with the inmates.

``There is weakness in the jail system ... but we are working on it,″ national prisons director Rafael Lamo told Caracol radio.

La Modelo, built to house 1,500 inmates, is crammed with nearly triple that number, and many live in appalling conditions. More than 85 percent of the inmates are still awaiting sentence.

Inmates at La Modelo include Cali drug cartel kingpin Victor Patino and rebel leader Francisco Galan, as well as a younger brother, Jorge, of Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, the top leaders of the Cali band.

The three men are held in a separate, top security building and were not involved in the uprising, said Javier Suarez, another prisons spokesman.

Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela are held along with other Cali bosses at Bogota’s other maximum-security prison, La Picota.

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