Thousands of Inmates in 51 Detention Centers on Hunger Strike in Venezuela


A hunger strike that thousands of Venezuelan inmates staged on Sunday in 16 prisons has reportedly expanded to at least 51 prisons as of Tuesday evening.

The Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP), a non-government organization specializing in the defense and promotion of human rights of prison inmates, is documenting the strikes.

Inmates began the hunger strike, which now covers prisons across 17 of Venezuela’s 23 states, to peacefully protest precarious confinement conditions and procedural delays in their cases. Some inmates claim they are serving time in prison without ever being sentenced.

The strike, which began on Sunday, reportedly expanded to three men’s prisons, two women’s annexes, and 11 preventive detention centers in police headquarters as of Tuesday evening. Neither socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro nor any member of his rogue authoritarian regime has addressed the situation or issued any public comment on the matter at press time.

Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro (Carlos Becerra/Getty)

An unspecified number of inmates who began the hunger strike reportedly sent a document to OVP, in which they demanded that Venezuelan authorities enact the “Judiciary Revolution” plan, a program Maduro first announced in June 2021 to reform Venezuela’s judiciary laws and “solve” the overcrowding and procedural delay problems in 60 days.

The inmates also demanded the “immediate release” of individuals experiencing procedural delays, anyone over the age of 70, those who are in poor health, and those “who cannot be cared for in the detention centers.”

“We have a serious problem of procedural delays, judicial guarantees, overcrowding, health, corruption; we have a serious problem of food and arms and drug trafficking,” OVP’s director told the Spanish news agency EFE on Tuesday.

In a video that OVP published on Sunday, inmates from the Bolivarian National Police’s detention center in Caracas’s La Yaguara neighborhood pledged to join the protests and demanded the release of anyone who has already served half of their sentence.

In a letter published on Sunday, OVP denounced the Maduro regime’s negligence in improving the living conditions of Venezuela’s prisons, listing issues such as the lack of medical attention, food insufficiency, the non-existence of rehabilitation programs, and the absence of measures to guarantee the security of the inmates.

“It is a fact that Venezuelan prisons are described as ‘Hells on Earth’ or ‘universities of crime,’ where inmates face extreme situations of violence, disease and abuse,” OVP said in the letter. “In short, there are many reasons why those deprived of liberty undertook a legitimate struggle for the recognition and respect of their rights, after many years of enduring atrocities, irregularities and lack of respect.”

The Venezuelan civil rights organization Provea announced on social media that family members of the striking inmates had gathered outside Caracas’s main Justice Palace on Wednesday morning to peacefully protest and echo the inmates’ demands for solutions to the confinement situation and procedural delays.

OVP reported that similar protests took place outside of some of the prison centers throughout the afternoon hours of Tuesday, with family members singing the country’s national anthem. OVP also claimed on Tuesday that a 55-year-old woman who was imprisoned in INOF, Venezuela’s only women-only prison, presented symptoms of bloody diarrhea after 55 hours on hunger strike.

Maduro, without addressing the ongoing strikes, announced on Tuesday that socialist lawmaker Julio García Zerpa had been designated Venezuela’s new “penitentiary services minister,” replacing Vice Admiral Celsa Bautista, who had occupied the position since February 2023.

Maduro’s message read:

I appointed Julio García Zerpa as the new Minister of People’s Power for the Penitentiary Service, to continue promoting a system adapted to the new times, safe, stable and with respect for Human Rights. I thank Vice Admiral Celsa Bautista for her important work at the head of this ministry.

In a letter sent to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) in 2021, OVP said Venezuela suffered from a 177-percent rate of prison overpopulation. In a January 2024 radio interview, new Penitentiary Services Minster Zerpa claimed there was “no overcrowding” in Venezuela’s prisons.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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