CARACAS, Venezuela (CNS) — A jail riot and fire that killed 68 people in Venezuela’s deadliest tragedy in decades could have been prevented, according to the Venezuelan bishops’ conference.
In a statement released March 31, the bishops said the incident occurred like an “ominous event that could be seen coming, given the series of improvisations and deficiencies … that reign in the judicial, police and penitentiary system.”
While authorities have not offered an official version of events from the jail in the central city of Valencia, families and at least one prisoner gave similar stories to Catholic News Service March 29. Most stated that a disagreement between guards and inmates March 28 escalated, leading guards to fire shots and someone using gasoline to fuel a fire. At least two female visitors were among the dead.
Venezuelan jails are notoriously overcrowded and corrupt, with prison gang leaders often boasting more authority than the guards overseeing them.
“We must know the truth, because the truth will be freeing,” the bishops wrote. “That truth means an exhaustive and credible investigation.”
The bishops also called for more information to be released regarding the disaster.
While the country’s attorney general has assigned several investigators to the case, neither President Nicolas Maduro nor the prison minister have mentioned the incident. Under the watchful eye of government censors, most local media ignored the tragedy entirely.
It has created “whole families already in pain, worsened by the silence and suspicion that the truth of the matter won’t be found,” the bishops wrote.
The bishops offered “all of the services the Catholic Church has in its prison ministry” to the dozens of families affected, many of whom spent Good Friday burying loved ones.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103