NGO: Over 7,000 Venezuelans Have Died in Prison Under Socialist Regime

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Over 7,000 people have died in Venezuelan prisons since the socialist regime seized power in 1999, according to a study published Thursday by the Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP).

According to figures obtained by the OVP, 7,329 have died in prisons since Hugo Chávez took power 20 years ago, roughly equivalent to one person a day. In 2011, the regime created a Ministry of Penitentiary Affairs aimed at reducing prison violence. There have been 2,832 recorded deaths since then, comprising roughly 38.51 percent of the total deaths.

The OVP’s General Director Humberto Prado blames current Minister of Popular Power for the Prison Service Iris Valera for the dreadful state of the country’s prisons. He accused her of “lying to the country and the international community over the past eight years, as she has been unable to end the issues of overcrowding, procedural delay, lack of leisure activities, corruption, violence, health problems, drug trafficking, and the use of weapons.”

Despite describing the problems listed above as the “seven capital sins,” Prado also pointed to the lack of medical attention and the appalling quality and quantity of food provided to inmates.

Around 40 percent of the nation’s 46,775 inmates are 18 to 30 years old. Around 65 percent of inmates were convicted of robbery, 20 percent on drug charges, ten percent of homicide, and five percent of rape. A total of 59 prisoners died in the first six months of 2019, with the most common causes of death being untreated tuberculosis and internal violence.

In May, 29 inmates were killed during a prison riot at a police station jail in the town of Acarigua, Portuguesa state, while in March last year, 68 people died in a fire at a jail in the northern city of Valencia. Similarly, in August 2017, a riot at a facility in the southern Amazonas state also left 37 prisoners dead. There have also been multiple reports of various gruesome activities, such as inmates eating rats, pigeons, and turning to cannibalism to stave off their hunger.

Some of the harshest conditions and human rights abuses are reserved for political prisoners, whose numbers have skyrocketed in recent years as the Maduro regime steps up its repression of opposition activists and politicians. Numerous witnesses have testified to the widespread use of torture and humiliation against them.

Many of these allegations were recently corroborated by the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who charged the regime with “grave human rights violations” that included “arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment, and torture” of anti-government activists. She also noted that allegations of extrajudicial killings were “shockingly high.”

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