By Pedro Izzo.
More than 1,200 inmates of the 26 de Julio Processing Center in San Juan de Los Morros, Guarico state, began a hunger strike at approximately 5 a.m. this Thursday, June 18.
According to Una Ventana a la Libertad (UVL in Spanish), an NGO that defends the rights of prisoners in Venezuela, the population of San Juan prison decided to protest due to the lack of food, which puts at risk the lives of the prisoners there.
Some relatives denounced that the lack of food has become a new type of mistreatment for the prisoners in the San Juan de Los Morros prison. “They give them only one cup with 100 grams of food per day. That is why they faint and are dying of hunger,” a mother, who reserved her identity for fear of reprisals, told UVL.
Family members say the prisoners will continue their hunger strike and could radicalize the protest with a blood strike, a kind of protestation in which prisoners cut themselves, sew their mouths, and often attack each other. These decisions are due to threats of intervention into the compound by the National Guard.
Minister Iris Varela
According to UVL, the inmates of the San Juan de Los Morros prison demand the presence of the Minister of Penitentiary Services, Iris Varela, so that she can personally listen to the problems and guarantee the provision of food and the attention from health-care personnel.
“They have an infirmary, but they don’t even have paracetamol, and they don’t take them to the hospital when they are sick to get treatment,” a relative of a prisoner complained to the NGO.
Unofficial: five prisoners dead from malnutrition
According to unofficial data from UVL, at least five deaths from malnutrition have been recorded so far this year in the 26 de Julio prison. Two of them, Carlos Eduardo Jiménez Jiménez and José Francisco Avilés Hidalgo, were admitted to the morgue of the Israel Ranuárez Balza Hospital last Tuesday, June 9. They were known to have died from severe dehydration.