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Venezuelan officials close prison, seize guns

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuelan prison officials have shut down a prison and seized dozens of weapons after moving inmates to other lockups.

Officials found a total of 56 guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition and 12 grenades at the prison in Coro in western Falcon state, Penitentiary Service Minister Iris Varela said on Monday at a news conference. Officials displayed the weapons on a table at the prison, where state television showed officials walking down grimy hallways.

President Hugo Chavez has pledged to improve the prison system following repeated deadly clashes in the country’s overcrowded penitentiaries.

Varela has said officials began moving about 600 inmates out of the prison on Oct. 14 as part of a larger government effort transfer prisoners to better facilities. She said on Friday that violence broke out at the prison last week, with two reported killed and 13 injured.

Inmates in Venezuelan prisons often obtain weapons and drugs with the help of corrupt guards. Varela said on Monday that two prison officials were detained and under investigation.

Stella Lugo, the governor of Falcon state, said on state television that the Coro prison is to be demolished starting Tuesday.

Government officials have pledged to build new prisons to improve conditions and ease crowding.

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