The riot was triggered by an attempted mass breakout from La Modelo prison as the capital Bogota was on a weekend lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

Inmates extend their hands at the Modelo prison in Bogota after a riot on March 22, 2020.
Inmates extend their hands at the Modelo prison in Bogota after a riot on March 22, 2020. (Daniel Munoz / AFP)

The rioting that swept through a crowded prison overnight in the Colombian capital Bogota left 23 inmates dead and 90 wounded, Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said on Sunday.

The riot was triggered by an attempted mass breakout from La Modelo prison, Cabello said, as the capital was on a weekend lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

Riot police stand guard outside the Modelo prison in Bogota during a riot on March 22, 2020.
Riot police stand guard outside the Modelo prison in Bogota during a riot on March 22, 2020. (Daniel Munoz / AFP)

Riots occurred "in several penitentiary centres in the country," Cabello said in a statement. "The result of the attempted escape in the Modelo was 23 inmates dead."

La Modelo is Bogota's second-largest prison after La Picota, where protests also erupted on Saturday night.

According to Cabello, 83 inmates and seven guards were injured in the disturbances inside La Modelo. Around half the injured prisoners were hospitalized, and two of the guards were in "critical condition."

"There were no escapes," she added.

The head of Colombia's prison authorities, General Norberto Mujica, said his forces had taken back full control of the prison.

A relative of an inmate cries outside the Modelo prison after a riot in Bogota on March 22, 2020.
A relative of an inmate cries outside the Modelo prison after a riot in Bogota on March 22, 2020. (Daniel Munoz / AFP)

"Our guards prevented the escape from being carried out. We achieved that today and as a result are not looking for 5,000 prisoners that would have escaped."

The government rejected accusations that the riots were sparked by unsanitary conditions inside a prison system unprepared to face the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is no health problem that would have caused the escape plan and these riots," Cabello said.

"Today there is not a single infection, and no prisoners, nor administration or custodial officials, that have the coronavirus."

Source: AFP