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22 Dead After Venezuelan Prison Riot

22 Dead After Venezuelan Prison Riot

Violence has rocked Venezuela’s prison system at regular intervals for many years. Last summer at least 25 people were killed after a violent riot occurred in El Rodeo, an overcrowded prison just outside of Caracas. As Time Magazine points out, many of the prisons in the country are essentially run by the inmates while security personnel are stationed to secure the perimeter of the facilities.

This summer has proven to be as deadly as last summer. A 20 day riot has rocked the country’s prison system after prisoners revolted in the wake of involuntary transfers to other jails. Prisoners were armed in the Merida state prison in conditions that were far from livable. The BBC notes that many of the state penitentiaries house three times the number of inmates they were designed to hold, causing friction, tension and unrest as that number only increases and security personnel only have the power to contain the inmates within such a small space.

As many as 500 deaths occur every year due to friction between overcrowded inmates who must work through a dense and sensitive system of rival gangs, who often have connections and recourse to weapons. Three weeks of strife occurred this July in the Merida prison as security forces were finally able to curb the uprising.

The Prisons Minister of Venezuela, Iris Varela, claimed that no one was injured after leaders of the revolt voluntary relented while security forces recaptured the prison, and that everyone’s human rights were maintained and respected. She also stated that such a situation, with so many armed prisoners, would never happen again.

Ms. Varela’s solution to much of the strife in these prisons is to let a large number of the prisoners go. As she told the BBC, “Of Venezuela’s 50,000 inmates, 20,000 shouldn’t be in jail.” Most of those who would be released have committed only minor crimes.

Earlier this month, another prison was rocked by a deadly riot, in which at least 57 women from the female wing of the penitentiary were captured by armed male inmates and held hostage. At least five inmates died in that revolt and another five officers were wounded, the Associated Press reports.

Last year’s prison uprising was one of the worst in history, leaving more than 25 people dead in its wake. Prisoners were locked behind the walls as the riot worsened. The decomposing bodies of victims plagued the complex and it took days for the situation to deescalate.

Many citizens were shocked by the lack of concern Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez voiced about the prison riots. He has been mysteriously ill for more than a year and many people have been speculating about the state of his health and his hopes for reelection at the end of the year. He has been fighting off cancer and taking treatments in Cuba. Recently, he has returned to the campaigning circuit.

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Photo Credit: Tony Hisgett

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14 comments

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10:10PM PST on Jan 26, 2013

Horrible but not shocking, this has been going on for years...

3:19AM PDT on Aug 30, 2012

what a tirade..

10:15AM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

PRISONS USA Big GOP Business. Inmates in US jails are not permitted to riot. Countess thousands of youth spend years languishing in prison for having personal stash of marijuana. The Rmoney/Ryan ticket I imagine would favor life without parole for drug offences. The sterile US prisons are devoid of the social interaction in overcrowded Venezuelan jails which are less regimented, and have much fewer controls allowing more personal freedom for the inmates.

7:58PM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

if prisons are being overcrowded of outliers, then the problem can't be resolved by just throwing them away and hiding them from the rest of society. these are human beings, who needs to be addressed as such - treated with respect and dignity. Isn't that what they keep demanding for through their violence and hate? there is something in them (whatever their story may be) that needs to be heard and addressed - only love can resolve hate, not denial or violence.

3:18PM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

how horrible

7:56AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

overcrowding and prisoner deaths are inherently interwoven--can the overcrowding not get addressed?

6:37AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Locking people up does not change anything - we have to learn how to teach people to remember they are sacred sovereign spiritual beings and to live accordingly. There are so many ways to live on planet Earth without harming life and one another. Every child needs to know they are precious and here to learn how to take care of life, learn how to be a responsible creative contributing adult and pass this information to future generations. The days of privilege and undeserved titles and the abuse, manipulation of others has to go. We have to evolve now or the consequences of our ignorant behaviour will kill us.

5:54AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Perhaps you should note that the jail in the image is not in Venezuela. It is Kilmainham jail in Dublin, Ireland

5:53AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Why are you using a picture of Kilmainham jail in Dublin, Ireland? Perhaps it should be noted that this is not in Venezuela. I imagine the Venezuelan jail doesn't look as neat and well kept.

1:33PM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

sad.

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