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Home / World / Venezuelan jail buried dead in mass grave as questions linger

Venezuelan jail buried dead in mass grave as questions linger



VALENCIA, Venezuela (AP) – They died together when flames broke through a crowded prison at Venezuela's police station.

Now many of them are buried next to each other.

Weeping relatives left caskets The 68 officers said they had been killed Friday in one of the worst prisons in the country in a newly dug mass grave.

Cemetery workers said they expected about half of those killed in three deep graves, each separated by a layer of hastily constructed concrete block. Simple white crosses with their handwritten names, birth dates and common death dates were placed around the grave.

"How will I forget to see my husband burned?" asked Wilca Gonzalez, 36, whose lover was the first to land on Friday. "How can you forget that?"

The mass excavation comes two days after the terrible fire in the industrial city of Valencia, where an estimated 200 people were kept in cells destined for no more than three dozen. As they bury their dead, Relatives' relatives seek answers from officials who still have no complete account of what has happened, how many have been injured, or have released the names of those killed.

"The state is far too quiet," said Humberto Prado, director of the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, an independent group campaigning for prisoners' rights.

In a statement, the Venezuelan government defended its commitment to human rights and ordered the prosecutor to investigate. Officials also condemned the United Nations Human Rights Office for statements that on Thursday urged Venezuela to express concerns such as dangerously crowded cells and to ensure that prisons and prisons conform to international standards

"It makes its biased position on Venezuela clear to the public" The statement said

Lawyers said the relative silence of officials was symptomatic of a greater aversion to the long-running concerns about the country's prison system. According to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, at least 32,000 people are housed in police station prisons serving as temporary holding cells for 8,000 people. Inmates are often able to obtain drugs and weapons with the help of corrupt guards.

With Venezuela facing one of the most serious economic contraction in modern Latin American history, these conditions have become even worse. Like much of the nation, activists say that prisoners are starving and unable to receive needed medical care.

  Yajaira Rojas, on the right, stands next to the casket holding the remains of her son Alix Eduardo Diaz and other mourning relatives in the municipal cemetery of Valencia, Venezuela, Friday, March 30, 2018. Weeping relatives arrived at the central cemetery on Friday and carried the caskets of many of the 68 victims who were killed in a fire at a police station to place them in a freshly dug mass grave. Cemetery workers said they were ready to bury at least thirty-three people in three deep graves two days after the fire, separated by a layer of cementstone. (AP Photo / Ariana Cubillos)

Yajaira Rojas, on the right, stands next to the coffin with the remains of her son Alix Eduardo Diaz along with other mourning relatives in the municipal cemetery of Valencia, Venezuela, Friday, March 30, 2018. The crying Relatives arrived at the central cemetery on Friday and carried the caskets from many of the 68 victims who were killed in a police station fire to place them in a freshly dug mass grave. Cemetery workers said they were ready to bury at least thirty-three people in three deep graves two days after the fire, separated by a layer of cementstone. (AP Photo / Ariana Cubillos)

"While the country is undergoing hyperinflation and the population is suffering from basic shortages and medicines in a mass shortage, conditions in Venezuelan law enforcement have fallen to a level that can best be described as draconian", said Geoff Ramsey, a Venezuelan researcher in the Washington office for Latin America

The incident is one of the worst mass casualties in Venezuelan prisons and prisons, but not the first. A fire in a prison in the western state of Zulia killed more than 100 detainees in 1994. In 2013, 61 people died in an uprising in Barquisimeto and more than 100 were injured, mainly by gunshot wounds.

The relatives had only a few details left about the last moments of their loved ones from photos of mobile phones and survivors.

Jeyne Lugo, whose 27-year-old son Roner was killed, said he briefly called her in front of the fire and said police had shot a pregnant woman in jail in the head. The inmates then set fire to a mattress to alert the dying woman to her help, she said. He told her that the officers were pouring gas, igniting the flames and spreading them.

After the fire, Lugo received a photo showing her son's right leg next to the body of a deceased pregnant woman. She recognized her son's leg because of the thick scar that ran up his calf, the remnant of an operation he had suffered years ago after an accident.

While she said the officials told the most suffocating families, she doubts that. One survivor claims that her son survived the fire but was shot dead.

She criticized what she called a premature effort by officials to close the case.

"I've never seen anything like this," she said

Other reports suggest that the inmates may have set the fire to flee.

Carlos Nieto, director of A Window to Freedom, an organization that oversees detention conditions, said reports from survivors and relatives began to indicate the incident as inmates attempted to capture two guards. Later, they allegedly set fire to some mattresses to force guards to open the cells.

  Relatives mourn the coffin of the remains of Jose Manuel Perez, 28, at his funeral at the Municipal Cemetery in Valencia, Venezuela, Friday, March 30, 2018. Weeping relatives arrived at the central cemetery on Friday and carried the caskets many of the 68 victims who were killed in a fire at a police station to place them in a freshly dug mass grave. Cemetery workers said they were ready to bury at least thirty-three people in three deep graves two days after the fire, separated by a layer of cementstone. (AP Photo / Ariana Cubillos)

Relatives mourn the coffin of the remains of Jose Manuel Perez, 28, during his funeral at the Municipal Cemetery in Valencia, Venezuela, Friday, March 30, 2018. Weeping relatives reached the center Graveyard on Friday carrying the caskets of many of the 68 victims killed in a police station fire to place them in a freshly dug mass grave. Cemetery workers said they were ready to bury at least thirty-three people in three deep graves two days after the fire, separated by a layer of cementstone. (AP Photo / Ariana Cubillos)

He said the only survivors could have escaped because the firefighters broke a wall behind the cells and questioned the authorities for not doing any more to help them.

Those in jail It is believed that this is a mixture of inmates awaiting trial or have already been convicted for a variety of crimes, many of them relatively minor in nature.

The Gonzalez family's husband, Erickson Zapata, 23, said he had been wrongfully detained a cellphone. They said he should not have been detained for more than ten days, but was in jail for ten months. It was kept in most of the facility, where 60 people were crammed inside, many sleeping in makeshift hammocks of sheets.

Gonzalez said that the last time her husband called her from prison, he asked for help. 19659015] "I can not breathe," he shouted. "I'm suffocating."

She identified his body with his crooked left ring finger and his uniquely large front teeth.

On Friday, his father, Jesus Zapata, 42, stood next to his son's coffin holding his Bible. With three other men he helped lower the coffin into the ground.

His soft sobbing turned into weeping as workers covered the coffin with boards and prepared the grave for the next inmate.

___ [19659015] Associated Press authors Fabiola Sanchez of Caracas, Venezuela, and Christine Armario of Bogota, Colombia, have contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.

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