At least nine inmates died in Peru during a prison riot demanding better sanitary conditions to protect from the Chinese coronavirus, the country’s prison authority announced on Tuesday.
The protest began Monday afternoon at Miguel Castro prison in Lima when inmates began burning mattresses and throwing objects at prison guards from rooftops. In a bid to take back control of the facility, authorities reportedly deployed over 200 policemen in an operation that took nearly three hours.
Those killed are believed to have been shot and their bodies reportedly displayed gunshot wounds as they were transported to the local morgue. At least two prisoners, five policemen, and 60 prison guards sustained injuries. Gerson Villa, the head of the National Penitentiary Institute, said in an interview with America Television that an investigation into the killings is underway.
“Hay 2 muertos” -dice el cartel.
Al final del día hubo 10.
Esto es el Penal de Castro Castro ayer.
Esto también es el Perú.
Y su democracia.
— beto ortiz (@malditaternura) April 28, 2020
Last week, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra approved a decree giving himself the power to grant humanitarian pardons to low-security prisoners to contain the spread of coronavirus across the country’s jails, which are currently at more than double capacity.
With their capacity hopelessly overstretched, the virus has spread aggressively across prisons where social distancing measures are all but impossible. The Peruvian prison authority has recorded 609 cases of coronavirus in prisons, and 113 cases among prison workers. Thirteen inmates have died from the virus, including two from the Miguel Castro prison where the riot took place.
As well as improved conditions and protections against the virus, many of the rioters also demanded that they be considered for humanitarian release, despite the fact that they are high-security inmates, convicted of crimes such as homicide, rape, drug trafficking, and armed robbery.
Violento motín en una cárcel de #Perú deja varios muertos.
Los reos protestaban por los casos de contagios dentro del penal.
— Primer Impacto (@PrimerImpacto) April 28, 2020
So far, the 3,000 pardons given out have been to the elderly, pregnant mothers, and those close to serving the end of their sentences. For the wider population, authorities have purchased over 200,000 Azithromycin pills and other medical supplies to help treat the infected.
Similar riots have also broken out around the world in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Syria, Argentina, Thailand, Italy, and the United States, leading to hundreds of deaths and injuries. The most common cause for all these outbreaks of violence has been the coronavirus and fears of overcrowding.
Peru currently has a total of 31,190 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the second-highest number in Latin America after Ecuador. At least 954 have died from the virus, while 8,425 have already made a full recovery.