The parents of multiple late prisoners in the western state of Táchira, Venezuela, say the government did nothing to stop a notorious cannibal from killing and eating their children – and forcing other prisoners to eat human flesh or face the same fate.
The cases do not appear to be a product of the growing threat of famine in the socialist nation, though prisoners in many prisons have reportedly resorted to killing and eating stray cats to survive. Instead, it appears the government has done nothing to contain the perverse behavior of a prisoner known as “The People-Eater,” who is believed to have killed and eaten 40 people before being arrested.
“More than 40 prisoners attacked him,” Carlos Herrera, father of prisoner Juan Carlos Herrera, told reporters this week. “They stabbed him and hung him to bleed him out. Mr. Dorancel, known as ‘The People-Eater,’ was the one who butchered him to feed him to all the prisoners in the Táchira prison.” Dorancel Vargas is currently serving a prison sentence for cannibalism.
“Whoever did not do it [eat the flesh]… would be beaten, their fingers would be cut off, their legs broken, lungs perforated, they would have their heads smashed in with hammers,” Herrera continued. “It was atrocious and disastrous what those people lived in there.”
Herrera cited another prisoner who had been released as a witness, who was with his son when he was killed and butchered.
His son, Herrera added, was kept in close quarters with a dangerous prisoner like Vargas because his family could not pay the bribe the socialist government demanded. Multiple law enforcement officers demanded 100,000 bolivares ($10,500) to transfer his son to a less dangerous prison. The average monthly salary in Venezuela is $20.
The parent of another prisoner killed in government custody, Luz Marina Sepúlveda, told a similar story. She says her son, Anthony Correa, was “tortured, murdered, and butchered, with prisoners forcing other prisoners to eat his remains.”
Vargas, the prisoner believed to have prompted the cannibalism, has been in prison in Táchira since 1999. “His speciality was to make empanadas with the remains of his victims, which he filled with muscle parts,” a Venezuelan news outlet explains. There is no indication that Venezuelan authorities have moved to prevent him from attacking other prisoners in Táchira.
The socialist Venezuelan government is notorious for having little control over its common prisoner population (as opposed to the political prisoners in Ramo Verde prison, who are kept in strict isolation). In a particularly embarrassing incident for the government of Nicolás Maduro in January, inmates in a prison on Margarita Island “honored” the death of a known leader in the gang community by filming a video, using a clandestine mobile phone, of a group of prisoners shooting weapons into the air on the prison’s rooftop. The prisoners carried dozens of heavy weapons to the prison’s roof and appeared little concerned that authorities would know they possessed such firearms.
Later in the year, Maduro made Margarita Island home of the year’s Non-Aligned Nations Summit, one of the most sparsely attended such meetings in the history of that group.
Caracas remains the world’s most violent city, according to an annual study released in January.