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Violence marks prison fire anniversary

Dec. 9, 2012 at 10:17 AM   |   Comments

SANTIAGO, Chile, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Authorities in Chile said scattered violence broke out this weekend on the second anniversary of the infamous San Miguel Prison fire, which killed 81 inmates.

Relatives of the prisoners held a peaceful vigil outside the prison, but in other parts of Chile there were roadblocks made of burning tires and an arson attack on a bus in a Santiago suburb.

Police said pamphlets found at the scene of the bus hijacking in Penalolen referred to the prison fire. The driver of the bus was allegedly assaulted by the arsonist and the passengers were forced off the vehicle before it was doused with gasoline and set alight.

Leaders of the family group 81 Reasons to Fight disavowed the violence but told The Santiago Times it was not unexpected. "Sometimes violence is necessary for the authorities to open their eyes," said Cesar Pizarro, whose brother was killed in the 2010 blaze. "Police and prison guards use violence too, but it's only when civilians do the same that there is a response."

The San Miguel fire was started by an inmate who cobbled together a makeshift flamethrower and ignited it inside the seriously overcrowded lockup. The Chilean government came under criticism for the reputedly brutal conditions within the corrections system.

"In Chile, conditions are (still) inhumane," Pizarro said. "The food is bad and there are 20 prisoners stuffed into cells for five."

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