Extortion is now commonplace in the Venezuelan prison system, according to local NGO Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP). For instance: Now for being able to see the light of day, the exit from the cell to the patio costs between one and four dollars, relatives denounce.
Relatives of inmates held in the jails of the National Police (PN) say the inmates have to pay up to receive “perks” that used to be their lawful rights as prisoners.
Payments for privileges have increased much more since the quarantine decreed by Nicolas Maduro began. Extortion by officials is already common, according to OVP. “It all depends on the ability of the person to talk to the official. If you don’t pay, it’s also difficult for them to let you visit them. I have not been able to see my partner for two months,” said the wife of one of the prisoners in Zona 7, a prison in Boleita, East Caracas.
The Tigrito (little tiger) is a cell found deep in the dungeons of Boleita, where sewage runs on the floor. For this reason, prisoners must sleep standing up among cockroaches, rodents, and a high risk of contracting any disease. Its name derives from the “tiger cages” used by US counterinsurgency experts during the Viet Nam war, a practice imported to Venezuela during the 1960s anti-guerrilla effort and that some military units of the Maduro regime still implement, according to human rights activists.
Relatives told OVP that some prisoners have died in this cell because they got locked up for a long time under these inhumane conditions. To get out of there, the family members must pay from $80 to $100. This payment allows them to have access to a more ventilated place, but if they do not pay, they are locked in there.
The conditions of the other cells are also unsuitable, most of them having more than 95 prisoners in a room of 70 meters. The excrement accumulates in plastic bags between the mats and walls, and if you don’t pay you don’t go out into the sun.
Carolina Giron, director of OVP, expressed her solidarity with these prisoners, who, since the moment of their arrest, are under the responsibility of the State and are victims of a flagrant violation of their human rights.
She called upon the Public Ministry and the General Attorney Office to carry out a timely, exhaustive, and truthful investigation of these events that further promote the collapse of the Venezuelan prison system.