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Clashes in Venezuelan Prison Kill 29 Detainees As Part of Attempted Jail Break

ACARIGUA, Venezuela – At least 29 prisoners were killed and 19 policemen wounded in clashes in a prison in western Venezuela on Friday, Al Jazeera reported Saturday.
The incident happened at the police station prison in the city of Acarigua, in the state of Portuguesa, when the Special Police Forces (FAES) attempted to stop a “gigantic incarceration”, which resulted in the death of 29 detainees, according to the Secretary of Public Security of Portuguesa Oscar Valero.
The prisoners received the police with “a hail of gunfire” while detonating three grenades, which wounded 19 policemen, Valero told reporters.
The NGO Una Ventana in Libertad, which defends the rights of prisoners, made a preliminary assessment of 25 deaths.
The director of the NGO, Carlos Nieto, said the clashes erupted when the FAES tried to rescue visitors taken hostage on Thursday by the “pran” – the head of the detainees – in the prison.
“This morning (the authorities) sent the FAES and there was a clash, the detainees had weapons, they shot at the police, and they apparently blew up two grenades,” Nieto told AFP.
The head of the detainees, Wilfredo Ramos, was among those killed, according to an internal police report.
The information cited by the NGO says that, several officers were injured by “shrapnel and explosives”.
The Ministry of Prisons did not comment on the incident, saying that the prisons of the police stations were not under its control.
A video broadcast on social networks shows a prisoner – apparently Ramos – whose face is partially veiled by brandishing a pistol and what appears to be grenades threatening two women.
These are our lives (on the line) and those of the visitors here, he said, pleading for help, while asking the police to stay away because “I’m ready to die”.
Nieto said the detainees were demanding “food and transfer to prisons” and denounced the “abuses” of the police.
No information was given on the fate of the hostages.
Detainees are supposed to be detained for up to 48 hours in such places as the police prison, Una Ventana told Libertad.
They are about 500 in the country and carry 55,000 people while their total capacity is only 8,000, added the NGO.
The prison of Acarigua has a capacity of 60 detainees but held 500, according to the police report.
These remand centers “are not suitable for keeping detainees longer than 48 hours,” said Nieto.
He said the prison system as a whole was “chaotic” and accused the prison ministry of “failing to carry out its duties”.
Venezuela has one of the worst records of prison violence in South America.
In March 2018, 68 inmates died in a fire in a police prison in Valencia.
And in August 2017, a riot in a facility in the southern state of Amazonas killed 37 people.
It is estimated that more than 400 people have been killed in Venezuelan prisons since 2011, while human rights organizations also claim to face a lack of food and medicine – as in most of the country – while their facilities are rife with corruption.
“How long will Venezuelan prisoners in the hands of the state die?” Humberto Prado, director of the NGO Observatory of Venezuelan prisoners, described the events of Friday as “massacre”.
“We have this situation because officials turn these cells into dungeons,” Prado said in a video posted on Twitter. “The prisoners in Venezuela will continue to die if nothing is done.”
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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