Families of victims cry foul after 50 dead in alleged Venezuela prison break

Caracas, May 2 (efe-epa).- Family members of the inmates gunned down in a prison riot in western Venezuela on Saturday questioned the official claim that the violence was triggered after a failed escape bid.

The kin of the dead prisoners claimed that the “cold blood” massacre was premeditated, although officials have said that the prisoner died in an exchange of fire after they tried to run away.

Some 40 people were killed after rioting broke out at the prison in the city of Guanare on Friday.

A prison official confirmed to EFE that all the dead were prisoners.

“It’s impossible, it is unheard of. These people (the authorities), how they behaved with these boys, they killed them in cold blood, it was a massacre,” Victor Calderon, the 50-yer-old father of one of the deceased, told reporters.

Calderon said on Saturday he received a call from Los Llanos prison in Guanare in the state of Portuguesa. He identified his son from pictures on a computer in the prison complex.

As he waited and dozens of other families waited for the corpses of their kin, Calderon demanded punishment for those responsible for the violence.

According to the official version, riots broke out around 1 pm on Friday when some inmates attempted an escape from the prison, situated around 500 kilometers (300 miles) southeast of the Caracas.

The prison’s director, Carlos Toro, was among the wounded after he was stabbed in the back and behind his head during the clashes in which the inmates allegedly used firearms and sharp weapons apart from tossing a grenade.

Adriana Leandro, who was among those waiting for information outside the prison, dismissed the official version.

She told reporters: “The prisoners in Capella were subjected to a massacre. We want to refute to the media that there was an attempt to flee (the prison).”

Marline Hernandez, a relative of one of the victims, said some prisoners had protested against the delay in distribution of food that family members regularly bring with them, after which guards started shooting at them.

“Yesterday, we went through a day of restlessness, anguish, worry, and pain, seeing the cruel, cold, merciless way in which they killed many prisoners. It was ghastly,” she said.

Several non-profit organizations, opposition leaders and international bodies have called for an investigation into the incident.

“We are gravely concerned about the violent events in a detention facility in Guanare. We urge the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation, tackle overcrowding & guarantee basic rights,” the United Nations Human Rights Office tweeted.

Amnesty International held the government of Nicolas Maduro directly responsible.

The rights watchdog said the government had “attempted to justify the use of violence against the prisoners, saying that they had attempted to escape the facility.”

“The grotesque images broadcast around the world should serve as a reminder that all those responsible for this atrocity must be brought to justice. The authorities’ lethal response must be thoroughly investigated and analyzed so that these international crimes do not go unpunished,” Amnesty said in a statement. EFE-EPA


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