The 500 or so mainly indigenous male inmates at the CRS No. 5 prison in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas are on hunger strike to demand the firing of a warden they accuse of abuses.

"I was inside and could see there was a hunger strike in every area," the Chiapas delegate of the Human Rights Council, Arturo Pensamiento Lievano, told the press here.

CRS No. 5 is located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from San Cristobal de las Casas.

The inmates in the women's section of the prison are not taking part in the fast, Pensamiento said.

He said he informed state Public Safety Secretary Rogelio Hernandez about the hunger strike and asked him to take steps to ensure the safety and well-being of the inmates.

Prisoners' relatives have gathered outside the penitentiary gates to show support for the protest.

The inmates, the majority of them Tzotzil and Tzeltal Indians, are asking state officials to come to the prison and discuss their grievances, which center on the actions of warden David Montero.

One complaint is that inmates' legal personal items were seized during a search for drugs and weapons, Pensamiento said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the wife of one prisoner accused the warden of corruption and of feeding the inmates uncooked and spoiled food.

"They're not animals for them (authorities) to keep in such a degrading situation," she told the media. "There are restrictions on visits, there are families who wait up to a month for a visit to be authorized."