Venezuela Blames Inmates For Deadly Prison Fire

Apr 2, 2018
Originally published on April 3, 2018 7:50 am

A deadly fire that broke out last week at a Venezuelan jail that killed dozens of inmates is believed to have been intentionally set by some prisoners, the country's chief prosecutor said Monday.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab said prisoners at the jail set the blaze in response to a "type of inspection" that wardens conducted at the jail, according to The Associated Press. What was objectionable about the inspection is not clear.

Saab, who is a close ally of President Nicolás Maduro, nonetheless told Unión Radio that police officials should be held accountable for the fire.

So far, he said, five officers have been arrested for "negligence" in connection with the fire, which killed 68 people.

"We don't discard the possibility of more arrests," Saab said, according to The Los Angeles Times. He said the fire investigation would last 45 days.

As NPR's James Doubek reported at the time of the fire, Venezuela's prisons are notoriously overcrowded. He noted a study by the journalism and research group InSight Crime that said "as of 2015, roughly 50,000 inmates were being kept in prisons meant for only 19,000. Jail cells, meant for temporary overnight holding, packed in 33,000 people in space meant for 5,000, the group said. Cells 'are so crowded that prisoners have to take turns to sleep on the floor.' "

Saab acknowledged as much, saying: "An exacerbated overcrowding exists in the police facilities," he told Unión Radio.

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