At least 16 people were killed in violent clashes between inmates at a Venezuelan prison, authorities and a non-governmental organization said on Tuesday.
But the death toll from the violence which broke out on Monday between two groups of detainees at the Sabaneta prison, in the western city of Maracaibo, was higher than usual.
The government says weapons smuggling by corrupt guards has allowed heavily armed inmates effectively to control some facilities. Venezuela\’s prisons hold three times as many inmates as they were designed for, and gun battles are common.
Fifteen inmates died in fights between rival gangs, Prisons Minister Iris Varela said. The other victim was killed in a separate incident.
Some of the inmates were beheaded and others dismembered, pressure group Venezuelan Prison Observatory told AFP news agency.
Prisons in the country are heavily overcrowded.
Varela said all the victims identified so far were "people with some kind of negative leadership in some part of the prison".
According to some reports, the clashes were caused by rival gangs vying to control the prison.
On January 26, the Venezuelan prison minister announced the closure of the Uribana prison in the northern city of Barquisimeto after clashes left at least 61 people dead a day earlier.
In 2012, 591 inmates died in 34 jails throughout the country and 1,132 were injured, while 560 deaths were reported in 2011 along with and 1,457 injured.