An NGO operating in Venezuela has published videos of starved prisoners in the socialist nation killing, skinning, and cooking cats on aluminum pans in order to survive, as wardens have forbidden families from bringing food and serve only a small cup of rice and water per day.
The NGO A Window for Liberty published the videos on their social media pages and have issued a statement condemning the Venezuelan government for human rights abuses against prisoners. The videos were smuggled out by relatives of those in multiple prisons across the country. According to NGO head Carlos Nieto Palma, relatives of inmates from at least four prisons denounced both the lack of food and various forms of physical abuse, including beatings with bats, chains, and heavy wet cloths.
The video and photos published by the NGO are from the Centro Penitenciario Metropolitano Yare 3 prison in the northern state of Miranda. Miranda is an opposition stronghold governed by former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. Relatives of inmates at a different prison in Lara state have protested that they have been banned from bringing food to the inmates despite the fact that the government has claimed the current economic crisis makes it difficult for the state to pay for sufficient food for the inmates.
The video of inmates preparing their protein has been posted to Youtube.
The NGO also published photos following the skinning of the cat showing how inmates use a makeshift “stove” made out of aluminum foil and what appears to be a match to cook the meat:
Some inmates have nicknamed the new diet the “Chinese menu,” due to rice being the only thing officially served in prison. Eighty percent of prisons have banned relatives from bringing inmates food despite the crisis. Those outside of prison also suffer through great food shortages, however, as the nation imposed a ration system in supermarkets that has made it nearly impossible to legally purchase such necessary home goods as milk, vegetable oil, and flour. As a result, a black market on the Venezuelan-Colombian border has flourished, where Venezuelans trade their cheap oil for basic foods easily purchased in Colombia.
Such human rights violations raise particular questions in Venezuela, where being publicly opposed to the socialist regime of President Nicolás Maduro could easily land anyone in prison. At its peak, the regime was arresting one anti-socialist protester every half hour in 2014. Prisons in the country are overflowing with prisoners of conscience, not just standard criminals.
The NGO report appears just as the nation prepares to hear a verdict for its most famous prisoner of conscience, opposition leader Leopoldo López. López, chairman of the Popular Will anti-Chavista party, was arrested in February 2014 on vague “murder and terrorism” charges, with President Maduro personally accusing him of inciting violence eyewitnesses claim was caused by government forces agitating an otherwise peaceful protest.
Attorneys for López said this week they are waiting for a sentence “absolving” López, asserting that they saw “no evidence on which to convict” their client. The Public Ministry of Venezuela (the prosecution), meanwhile, told reporters in a statement that they had “presented our conclusions in court… demonstrating his guilt regarding the crimes of public instigation, assembly with intent of delinquency and accomplice in damages and arson.”