Thousands stage sit-in protest in Venezuela prisons

Por Venezuela Real - 14 de Octubre, 2008, 18:31, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

Washington Post
 October 14, 2008

CARACAS (Reuters) - Thousands of relatives of inmates staged sit-in protests on Tuesday in prisons across Venezuela to protest abuse and poor conditions in one of the nation's largest such protests in years.

Prison violence kills hundreds of inmates each year. It has fueled complaints that leftist President Hugo Chavez has done too little to stem crime and improve the judicial system that often allows people to languish in squalid cells for years without a trial.

Venezuelan Prison Observatory, a nonprofit group that monitors prisons, said a protest that began last week with a hunger strike at one prison has spread across the country to involve thousands of relatives, including dozens of children.

The Interior Ministry said 6,500 inmate relatives held sit-in protests at eight jails, local media reported.

The nonprofit group reported last year more than 500 inmates were killed last year in prison and eight such sit-in protests. This week's protest is unusually large.

Chavez, who has used Venezuela's oil wealth to finance social programs for the poor, has vowed to improve conditions for the country's estimated 21,000 prisoners. He was imprisoned for two years for leading a failed coup in 1992.

Venezuelans' top concern is crime with many Chavez critics and supporters blaming his government for failing to rein in violence that kills thousands each year, according to opinion polls.

(Reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Saul Hudson and Bill Trott)

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