Argentine prison riot over coronavirus ends with promise of talks

Buenos Aires (AFP) - A prison riot in Argentina over fears of the coronavirus spreading in the facility ended Friday after inmates agreed to hold talks with officials, local media reported.

The unrest at the jail in the capital Buenos Aires lasted nine hours and came after a warden tested positive for COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the virus.

Prisoners climbed onto a roof, burned mattresses and threw objects at guards trying to quell the uprising, AFP journalists at the scene said.

Police surrounded the Villa Devoto prison, which holds around 2,200 inmates, as explosions were heard. Authorities have not reported any injuries.

The violence ended after representatives of the inmates agreed to meet with authorities on Saturday to discuss their concerns, local media reported, citing sources at the Justice Ministry.

Inmates are demanding those considered among the most at-risk from COVID-19 are held at home, better protections in the jail from the pandemic, as well as the pardoning of some sentences.

The inmates are also demanding that releases that were pending before the virus outbreak be processed.

"We refuse to die in prison," read a banner painted by detainees and unfurled on the roof of the jail.

Another banner said: "COVID-19 in Devoto, genocidal judges."

Several other riots broke out in prisons last week, including in Florencio Varela in Buenos Aires province where one inmate died and 20 were injured.

Argentina has been in lockdown since March 20 and has recorded more than 3,400 coronavirus cases and 167 deaths.