CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela's government is facing mounting criticism from activists and the U.N. human rights office for its handling of the country's overcrowded and violent prisons following a clash between inmates and troops that left at least 58 dead.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed concern on Tuesday about "an alarming pattern of violence in Venezuelan prisons, which is a direct consequence of poor conditions."
The government has said that 58 people were killed on Friday at Uribana prison in the city of Barquisimeto when armed inmates clashed with National Guard troops who were attempting to carry out an inspection.
"We call for prompt and effective investigations into this incident," Colville said at a news conference in Geneva. "We also call on the Venezuelan government to adopt urgent measures to ensure that conditions of detention comply with international human rights standards."
The U.N. human rights office noted that guns are widespread in Venezuelan prisons and violence is frequent. It said government authorities bear responsibility for what happens to inmates.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro defended the Venezuelan government's efforts and said the "first steps" are being taken to improve the country's prisons.
"We have to succeed in bringing the country truly model prisons," Maduro said in a televised speech. "It's a difficult issue, well, an unresolved issue. But we're going to solve it."