February 12, 2005
BUENOS AIRES -- Rioting inmates at an Argentine prison freed all their hostages yesterday, ending a daylong siege that left eight people dead.
Prisoners at the facility in Cordoba, Argentina's second-biggest city, turned violent during family visiting hours Thursday afternoon, with inmates demanding an end to overcrowding and other changes.
After an overnight standoff with security forces, inmates began gradually releasing some 70 hostages until all were freed.
Police said about half of the hostages were family members and the rest were prison officials, including the warden.
''There are no rebels at this time, all of them have ended their protest. The hostages have been released and we have recovered the weapons," said Jorge Rodriguez, head of the Cordoba provincial police, on local television.
Earlier, authorities said five prisoners and three guards were killed. Some 30 people were reported injured.
The uprising was at the San Martin maximum-security penitentiary, which houses about 2,000 inmates, authorities said.
Local reports said inmates' relatives were trapped inside when the riot began.
President Nestor Kirchner deployed national guardsmen to the scene, about 450 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.
Argentines watched the drama unfold on television. Broadcasts showed inmates on the roof nicking a half-naked prison guard with a knife until his T-shirt was covered with blood. The guard was later seen walking out of the prison escorted by police.
Shots rang out intermittently as the rioters threw rocks at police sheltering behind plastic shields and threatened to push a captive guard off the rooftop. Prisoners with their faces covered shoved another guard to the ground.
The Cordoba city governor, Luis Juez, said the facility was old and falling apart and that prisoners lived in ''subhuman" conditions.
Authorities said inmates, in overpowering the guards, had gotten hold of their weapons and taken other arms from a storage area.
Gustavo Vidal Lascano, attorney general of Cordoba Province, said three inmates were killed while trying to escape.
There have been 263 prison riots in Argentina since 1986, but they have become less frequent since 2000, a private study found.