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Guatemala Prison Siege Ends; Inmates Free Hostages

From Times Wire Services

A five-day standoff at a maximum security prison ended peacefully Thursday when an estimated 150 armed inmates holding hundreds of hostages signed an accord with the government, then surrendered their weapons and released their captives.

“We are OK, thank God,” said one woman as she and her two small children were escorted by heavily armed guards to waiting Red Cross workers at the gates of the maximum security prison. Several others carrying small infants in their arms quietly wept as they were led to waiting ambulances and buses.

The uprising at Pavon prison, the country’s largest, left at least 11 people dead, including four guards, and as many as 60 wounded.

Prison spokesman Conrado Monroy said the inmates began to free their hostages around 3 p.m. local time, more than four hours after the agreement was reached, Radio Emisoras Unidas reported.

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Interior Minister Roberto Valle Valdizan and three representatives of the rebel inmates signed the accord one day after authorities cut off food, water and electricity to the overcrowded prison, about 10 miles southeast of Guatemala City, the capital.

Under the accord, the government agreed to remove the prison’s director, to improve conditions at the jail, to guarantee personal security of the inmates and to change the guards.

The prisoners accepted a government proposal to encourage the courts to pardon inmates for the uprising and to present the inmates’ petition to the National Congress calling for a five-year reduction in prison sentences.

The government also pledged to improve prison conditions nationwide.

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The uprising began Sunday afternoon when the inmates broke into the prison armory and seized a large number of rifles. As they approached the gates to escape, they were met by guards who opened fire, police said.

The inmates then took nearly 600 hostages, most of them women and children who were on an Easter visit.


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