Violence has flared repeatedly at other prisons in the past year. In August, 25 people were killed and 43 wounded when two groups of inmates fought a gunbattle inside Yare I prison south of Caracas.
Venezuela has 33 prisons built to hold about 12,000 inmates. Officials have said the prisons’ population is currently about 47,000.
Uribana prison was built to hold about 850 inmates. Varela said that when the violence erupted the prison held about 2,400.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles called government officials’ response ‘‘incredible’’ and inadequate. Without mentioning Vice President Nicolas Maduro by name, Capriles criticized government officials who ordered an investigation and then traveled off to a summit in Chile.
He noted that in Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff reacted differently after a nightclub fire that killed more than 230 people, when she cut short her summit trip and returning to visit the injured.
‘‘Here, they go away to a summit. They dispose of it as if it were one more matter, one more little problem,’’ Capriles said at a televised event. ‘‘If we have a state that’s not capable of providing security within a penitentiary, what’s left for common citizens?’’
‘‘The problem that we’re seeing can’t be solved closing a prison,’’ Capriles said. ‘‘The way to solve it is resolving the problem of overcrowding.’’
Associated Press writer Vivian Sequera in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.