Target: Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez
Goal: Improve the terrible conditions and stop frequent outbreaks of violence in Venezuela’s prison system.
Jails and prisons in Venezuela have been plagued by overcrowding and violence for many years. Exemplifying this trend, a recent prison riot broke out that resulted in a staggering 58 casualties. The terrible conditions in which convicts are held and under which prisons are operating will continue to breed violence if nothing is done to remedy the situation. Venezuela must take immediate action to improve the quality of its incarceration facilities.
The latest episode of violence erupted at Urbana prison when National Guard troops were attempting to inspect prisoners for possession of guns. Armed inmates immediately began firing at the troops on a large scale. The resulting riot claimed the lives of 56 inmates, a National Guard soldier, and a Protestant pastor before it was put under control.
“We call for prompt and effective investigations into this incident,” said U.N. Spokesman Rupert Colville of the riot. “We also call on the Venezuelan government to adopt urgent measures to ensure that conditions of detention comply with international human rights standards.”
Considering Venezuela’s history of prison violence, the comment was well directed. This kind of tragic event is painfully common in a country where prisoners are often armed and overcrowding has reached intolerable levels. Venezuela has 32 prison facilities built to hold about 12,000 inmates. Authorities have said the total population of these prisons is currently around 47,000. Urbana is no exception to the rule, being built for 850 inmates and housing nearly 12,000 at the time of the riot.
In 2011, President Hugo Chavez created a ministry dedicated to the purpose of repairing the broken system, but little progress has been made. As Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in a recent televised speech, “It’s a difficult issue, well, an unresolved issue.”
Hundreds of Venezuelan convicts continue to die each year in prison, and inmates acquire weapons and drugs with the help of corrupt guards. It is time this situation was made a priority. Sign this petition and pressure the Venezuelan government to take focused affirmative action on its deteriorating prisons.
Dear President Hugo Chavez,
The recent Urbana prison riot is the latest episode in a history of unacceptable prison conditions that has gone on too long. Venezuela’s 47,000 inmates are currently packed into facilities totaling a capacity for only 12,000. This situation will continue to breed violence until focused affirmative action is taken to improve the number and quality of your prisons.
Since the 2011 creation of the ministry led by Penitentiary Service Minister Iris Varela, little progress has been made towards livable prisons in Venezuela. The condition in which convicts are being held is in violation of international human rights standards. The Venezuelan government must make its broken prison system a priority and ensure that this problem is resolved.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: Hans via Pixabay