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Gang prisoners kill guards, take hostages in Guatemala

© AFP / by Johan ORDONEZ | Inmates at a Guatemalan juvenile detention center peer out windows a day after a riot left two guards dead; four guards are still held hostage


Imprisoned young gang members killed two guards and held four others hostage in a riot in a juvenile detention center in Guatemala, police said Monday.

The violence broke out late Sunday in the Stage II juvenile detention center for boys in the town of San Jose Pinula, just to the east of the capital Guatemala City.

The deadly unrest came less than two weeks after 40 teenage girls died in a fire at a nearby youth shelter.

Pablo Castillo, spokesman for the national police, said one security guard at the Stage II juvenile detention center was killed. A separate police source, who asked not to be named, later told AFP a second guard had died.

"They are still holding four guards," Castillo told AFP.

The Guatemalan prosecutor's office for human rights said about 40 members of the feared Barrio 18 gang had led the revolt Sunday in the Stage II juvenile center.

Emergency services said detainees had lit fires inside the facility, causing two of the inmates to be hurt.

An AFP journalist outside the blue-and-white center saw male detainees, their hair cut short, crowding at barred doors and windows. Armed police patrolled the exterior.

- Alleged maltreatment -

The youth inmates were said to be rebelling against maltreatment by guards.

A similar motive was reported in the nearby Virgin of the Assumption shelter, where teenagers had claimed sexual and other abuse by personnel before the deadly March 8 fire. Staff denied the allegations.

That deadly blaze prompted public indignation and numerous protests that have rocked the government of President Jimmy Morales.

Local media reports said the Stage II inmates had made a series of demands, including the return of comrades who had been sent to other centers, better food, and the easing of restrictions on visits.

According to police, one wounded guard at Stage II was released by the inmates early Monday and taken to hospital. Negotiations were underway to try to have the other four released.

"A dialogue is ongoing with various institutions so that they drop their violent attitude," Castillo said.

Both the Stage II and Virgin of the Assumption facilities are managed by the social welfare ministry.

Its head, Carlos Rodas, and several of his officials were dismissed and arrested in the wake of the deadly blaze at the shelter early this month.

The Stage II center was the scene of a battle between rival gangs in 2005 which left 14 people dead.

by Johan ORDONEZ

© 2017 AFP