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Venezuela government breaks silence over prison riot, fire that killed 68



CARACAS (Reuters) – The Venezuelan government killed dozens of prisoners Wednesday in cells at a police station and issued a statement on Friday, sent condolences to relatives and promised to investigate.

Mourners mourn the coffin of José Rivero, one of the inmates who died in a riot and a fire in the cells of the General Command of the Carabobo Police during his funeral in the cemetery in Valencia, Venezuela, on March 30, 201
8. REUTERS / Adriana Loureiro

"The Bolivarian Government of the Venezuelan Republic … sends its deepest condolences to the relatives and relatives of all people who died in this unfortunate incident," the Foreign Ministry statement said.

The statement did not disclose any details of the cause of the disaster that had told relatives' relatives and a surviving prisoner told Reuters about a shootout with the police in a crowded and lawless prison.

Mourners grieve next to the casket of Edgar Martinez, one of the inmates who died in a riot and a fire in the cells of the General Command of the Carabobo Police during his funeral in a cemetery in Valencia, Venezuela, on March 30, 2018 REUTERS / Adriana Loureiro

The Venezuelan opposition claims that the reaction of leftist President Nicolas Maduro to the 68 deaths in Valencia is woefully inadequate. Maduro has not personally talked about the incident and instead tweeted about Easter holidays, a visit by Hollywood actor Danny Glover, and the upcoming presidential election.

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In its statement, Venezuela also criticized the United Nations Human Rights Office for "filled and disproportionate" comments on the disaster.

From Geneva, the United Nations had called on the Venezuelan authorities to conduct a quick investigation and compensate the families of the victims.

The Venezuelan State Department said these comments had betrayed "prejudice" and had been part of a "multi-pronged attack" against the South American nation.

Prison violence was a topic in Venezuela long before Maduro's late predecessor Hugo Chavez took office in 1999. Chavez once described the problem as the "wildest" in the world and promised to clean it up.

But opposition politicians said the Valencia disaster is another sign of the incompetence of ruling socialists in a country that is deep in the economic crisis and plagued by food shortages, hyperinflation and rampant crimes.

"While all kinds of human rights violations are going on in Venezuela, Maduro is busy … increasing his level of corruption and showing that he is an incompetent leader who lets people go without food and medicines," she said Opposition lawmaker Angel Alvarez from the state of Carabobo, where the prison riot took place.

coverage by Corina Pons and Alexandra Ulmer; Arrangement by Susan Thomas


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