68 killed, outcry grows over Venezuela jail riot

While rights groups and opposition politicians blamed leftist President Nicolas Maduro for overcrowding in the country’s notoriously violent jails, anguished relatives of some 68 people killed in a riot and fire in the cells of a Venezuelan police station demanded explanations on Thursday.

Deadly riots are common in Venezuela’s lawless prisons, where inmates often openly wield machine guns and use drugs. But the death toll in the decrepit city of Valencia (once a thriving industrial hub) in Wednesday’s riot was particularly shocking.

The United Nations human rights office, in Geneva, called on authorities to carry out a speedy investigation and to provide reparations to victims’ families.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement that they urge the Venezuelan authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and effective investigation to establish the cause of these deaths, provide reparations to the victims’ families, and where applicable, identify and bring those responsible to justice, voicing concern at prison conditions.

“The disaster was another sign of Maduro’s incompetent rule in a country that is deep in economic crisis and is plagued with food shortages, hyperinflation, and rampant crime”, said opposition politicians in Venezuela.

Opposition lawmakers say prison violence has worsened under Maduro and his predecessor the late Hugo Chavez, although it has been a problem in Venezuela for decades.

Opposition lawmaker Yajaira Forero said that the only culprit is the government, which keeps a huge quantity of prisoners crammed together in police office cells for a long time in inhumane conditions.

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