Deadly riot in Guatemala youth jail

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Inmates climbed the roof of the detention centre as others set mattresses alight

[BBC] – Two guards have been killed in a riot at a youth detention centre in Guatemala, police say.

Five more have been injured and are being held hostage at the Etapa II centre in the capital, Guatemala City. The inmates are demanding that they be allowed to receive food parcels and be given permission to cook their own meals.

Riot police surrounded the jail and fired tear gas but have so far failed to regain control of the prison. The inmates set mattresses alight and climbed the roof of the detention centre. Some tried to escape.

Officials said the riot was started by members of the 18th Street Gang, one of Central America’s most notorious gangs. Among their demands was that fellow gang members held at other jails be transferred to Etapa II.

Some inmates tried to take advantage of the riot to escape

Witnesses said inmates from the 18th Street Gang also threatened to kill members of rival gang Paisas if they refused to take part in the riot. Members of violent street gangs make up the bulk of Guatemala’s prison population and deadly conflict inside prison walls is not uncommon.

Hours after the riot started on Sunday, smoke could still be seen coming from parts of the detention centre. The incident comes less than two weeks after 40 girls died in a fire at a state-run children’s shelter, also near Guatemala City.

That fire, too, is believed to have started when a mattress was set alight. The two cases have highlighted the poor state of children’s and youth services in Guatemala, activists say.