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Venezuelan gov’t confirms deaths of 48 prison inmates from poisoning

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 22:49 by GxMedia

Caracas, Dec 10 (EFE).- Venezuelan Penitentiary Services Minister Iris Varela confirmed Wednesday the deaths of 48 inmates in a prison in the western part of the country after they consumed a cocktail of medications during a riot or strike on Nov. 26.

“I don’t like to speak about that figure. I prefer to say that more than 100 people who ingested (the medications) were able to be saved, and there are some that are fighting to survive,” said Varela during an interview with the private Globovision channel, confirming that 48 prisoners died from poisoning.

“Thank God that more were saved than died,” she added.

The country’s top prison official said that her office is continuing to investigate what occurred on Nov. 26 in the David Viloria Penitentiary Center, known as the Uribana prison, in the western state of Lara, where – of the 145 prisoners who were poisoned – 20 remain in comas.

According to the prisons ministry, on that day “some of the inmates … proceeded to assault the (prison’s) health clinic and violently entered the area … proceeding to ingest multiple medications” as part of an “insubordinate” protest demanding that the prison warden be fired.

Varela, who provided no further details, said that “there were problems in which prison officials participated … where there is the participation of inmates and where we’re investigating the participation of military officials.”

Three days after the incident, the Public Ministry ordered an investigation into what it said was an “irregular situation” in the Uribana prison.

The prison director, Julio Cesar Perez, was arrested for his alleged responsibility in the incident.

Varela said, however, that Perez was the director of another prison, not Uribana, but she had sent him there to investigate irregularities that had been reported by relatives of the inmates.

The minister attributed failures in the prison system to “mafias” that “converted the prisons into an industry,” and so far this year 46 guards have been arrested and placed on trial in Venezuela for crimes such as “weapons trafficking inside the prisons.”