The online news portal of TV5
CARACAS -- More than 20 prisoners and a visitor have been killed in an outbreak of violence between rival gangs in a prison near the Venezuelan capital, a government minister said Monday.
"There are more than 20 (dead) and a family member of one of the prisoners" was also killed, said Iris Varela, the minister in charge of prisons, speaking to state television network VTV.
Varela said the violence erupted Sunday between two "heavily armed groups" at the Yare I prison near Caracas, but had been brought under control by Monday.
Local news reports said several hundred family members were visiting inmates when the violence broke out.
The Venezuelan Prison Observatory, a nongovernmental group, said more than 300 inmates died in the nation's overcrowded prisons during the first half of 2012.
The government says there are 50,000 prisoners in a system built for just 14,000 inmates.
In July 28 prisoners were killed and 17 injured in a prison uprising in the western city of Merida that took authorities three weeks to bring under control.
In May, an uprising in Caracas' La Planta prison led to a more than three-week-long standoff with authorities. Stray gunfire in that confrontation killed a man in a nearby apartment building.
An operation to retake the El Rodeo prison, on the outskirts of Caracas, in June 2011 left 25 people dead, and some of the inmates escaped.
After that debacle, President Hugo Chavez created a new ministry to deal with the country's violent, overcrowded prisons, and put Varela in charge.
But experts say the country's prisons remain a cauldron of violence, ruled from within by gangs with easy access to weapons.