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Caracas, Apr 8 (EFE).- Searches of Venezuela's prisons have led to the seizure of 900 weapons since July 2011, penal system Minister Iris Varela said Monday.
Authorities have also arrested soldiers and police who were collaborating with "mafias that operate with less and less power" in the country's jails, Varela said before the ministers of defense, Adm. Diego Morelo, and of the interior, Gen. Nestor Reverol.
Varela made the statement on the occasion of 679 guns being destroyed together with other arms confiscated from criminals.
The rest of the weapons found among the inmates, including two air force rifles, stolen from a prison guard in an attack, were either returned or make up part of the evidence in court cases currently in progress, the minister said.
Morelo said that 300,114 arms seized in different criminal acts between 2003 and 2012 have been destroyed.
"We're headed toward a Venezuela free of guns, toward peace, and that's why we keep calling on the country" to cooperate, Reverol said, adding that officials are devising a program of incentives to persuade people to voluntarily hand over their guns.
Venezuela suffers a chronic prison crisis with constant riots and a situation totally out of control in some of the nation's penitentiaries.
Figures from the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory show that at least 591 inmates died and another 1,132 were wounded in 2012 from prison violence.