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In Venezuela, prisons are typically run by an inmate called the pran who controls many of the prison’s activities, including the import and export of contraband as well charging other inmates “rent” for their accommodation. The pran is a near-mythical figure in the Venezuelan prison: he rules the prison as a lord rules a castle, and operates with the tacit approval of official prison authorities.

The Penitenciaria General de Venezuela (PGV), a prison in Guarico state, is run by a pran named Franklin Raul Hernandez Quezada, [url=https://caraotadigital.net/blog/2016/10/03/pran-de-la-pgv-envia-mensaje-a-iris-varela-con-video-de-recluso-muerto-por-tuberculosis/]a.k.a. “Franklin Masacre”, a.k.a. “Viru Viru”[/url]. Since the start of the week, Franklin has recorded at least two videos and addressed them to Minister of Penitentiaries Iris Varela.

In the videos, Franklin complains that prisoners at the PGV are held in sub-human conditions, and calls on the minister and the national government to address the matter. The videos provide an intimate look into live in Venezuela prisons.

The first video was published on Monday, and shows what Franklin claims to be the emaciated body of an inmate who had recently died of tuberculosis. Franklin claims that the recently deceased man was one of 25 inmates suffering from tuberculosis, and that he died due to a lack of medicine. He blames Varela for what he calls a “plan desgaste” [a plan of attrition], which he implies is a deliberate effort by the Ministry of Penitentiaries to starve the inmates at PGV of food and medicine in order to “massacre” them.

I’ve translated the video below. Franklin uses a lot of slang with which I’m not familiar, so I apologize if the translation lacks clarity:

Franklin: Well, this is how he started the morning today, which is Monday, October 3. See? We’ve got a casualty here of… well, he was sick with tuberculosis, and he’s just died because he ran out of medicine. And there are 25 others like him. 25 minus him, so now it’s 24. They are the ones who are giving up their lives for the plan desgaste (?) [this literally means “plan of attrition”] that our minister [Varela] has. That’s why. So they don’t give us medicine. No! How is this possible? I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s just.

Mrs. Minister, come over and talk to us. We also deserve to be heard. Don’t listen to this bad people anymore, because if those bad people really wanted to solve the problem, they wouldn’t lead you astray. Do you understand? They wouldn’t take you to a precipice, as they’ve done to you in the past. Do you understand? There’s nothing happening here: the only problem here is being created by you, since you’ve already started the killing. First, one guard killed another guard, and now with your plan of attrition, well, now our friends are dying with tuberculosis here. We have to keep them in isolation. Now, imagine this the epidemic that these dead could start.

Well, this is Franklin Hernandez speaking, ma’am, to the people of Venezuela. All I’m asking for is dialogue and for Minister Iris Varela’s attention, because we also have the right to speak and to be heard. Do you understand? Just as you have enemies, we have enemies. And it’s worth to defend ourselves through dialogue, too. You don’t want to give us a chance because you want to massacre us. Vease bien en ese espejo [literally, “Look at yourself in the mirror”, meaning “take a look at this dead man; this could be you”], and let everyone in Venezuela see the plan of attrition that they’ve set up now.

Yesterday, Franklin published a second video showing what he alleges to be other inmates suffering from tuberculosis at PGV. Below, the video along with my translation:

Franklin: This is the desperate situation we’re living through right now, see? This is a real, true desperate situation. This is the history of the Penitenciaria General de Venezuela, see? Mrs. Minister. Mrs. Iris Varela. Take a look. This is what we’re going through right now. They’re sick, and I’ve just made them a little bit of rice with chicken and water so we can at least keep them going. Can you imagine this? Do you understand what I’m saying? And then we have to go in there [into the prison cells] to give them food.

But they need medicine, which is really important. I want you to pay attention to that. Their medicine is really important – it’s not just what I’m giving them here. Look: Wilmer Apostol [the PGV’s warden] and Medonza [possibly another prison official] had their chanchujo (?) [I don’t know what this means] and they wanted to conduct a massacre because they never told you about the reality of what is happening here in the Penitenciaria General de Venezuela. Do you understand what I’m saying? All they want to do is talk trabolla (?) [I don’t know what this means – possibly “empty words], do you understand me?

Of course, whenever you see a tree with lots of fruit, everyone starts throwing rocks at it. But that’s how everything is, because even our president, Nicolas Maduro, as much as he might try to do things right people are still trying to fuck him up because he’s got his adversaries, you know what I mean? They’re the opposition.

Well, let’s change the topic. Pay attention this problem. This is what’s happening here. Don’t try to dodge around the problems that Venezuela have and leave us holding the bag, as they say. Mrs. Minister, you’re not going to conduct a massacre here as you’ve done in the past in other prisons. Remember that this is the Penitenciaria General de Venezuela, the mother of all prisons in Venezuela. This is where we should receive the best treatment, but you’ve never done that. This is where we have little classrooms and gardens so we can entertain ourselves. Do you know what I’m saying? We keep ourselves busy here.

But what’s happening is that, on Mendoza’s and Apostol’s whim, you were going to conduct a massacre here without even trying to talk to us. Without knowing what kind of person I am. Well, my name is Franklin Hernandez. I only want to tell you to take care of this problem because we’re human beings and we deserve a chance. These men standing here before me have a right to life and a right to have a chance.

Inmates: [Together] We need food and medicine, please.

Franklin: Well, Minister, they want medicine.

Franklin also features in another video spread through social media this week. In the video, an inmate at PGV explains how Franklin amputated his thumbs as punishment over a dispute over Bs. 200 (approximately 16 US cents).

PGV Inmate’s Relatives Protest, Call For “Peace, Not Massacre”

This morning, relatives of inmates held in the PGV [url=http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/sucesos/familiares-presos-pgv-exigen-iris-varela-paz-masacre_621219]staged a protest outside of the Miraflores Palace[/url], the National Assembly building, and the Ministry of Penitentiaries offices in Caracas.At the National Assembly, the relatives were received by deputy (MUD) Juan Pablo Garcia, who blamed Maduro, Varela and People’s Defender Tarek William Saab for the deplorable conditions in the prison.

The relatives presented the national legislature with a document outlining some of the abuses their imprisoned loved ones suffer at PGV. [url=http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/sucesos/familiares-presos-pgv-exigen-iris-varela-paz-masacre_621219]Part of the document reads[/url]:

They receive neither food nor medical attention. [Relatives] are inside the prison to support them because the government has yet to issue a response.

The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) published a video on its Twitter account allegedly showing a relative of a PGV inmate explaining the situation at the prison today. Below, the video along with my translation:

Relative: The [bus?] terminal was closed yesterday, [and] they [the authorities] are not allowing people from Caracas to go there, or people from San Juan to come out [PGV is located in that city]. They [the government] call for peace, but they don’t preserve the right to life. To preserve the right to peace we have to preserve the right to life. And, if inmates are losing their civil rights, the state has an obligation to respect their lives. But in this case they don’t, because they want to storm the prison, conduct a massacre. In this case, they haven’t yet conducted the massacre but they are killing [the inmates] with hunger.

What is happening to us could happen to anyone because there is no rule of law. Laws are not respected here. This is the only country where you are guilty until proven innocent. Please hear us! These are our children, our husbands, our brothers. They aren’t stray dogs. They deserve the right to live.

CNE Will Take One Month To Decide If Recall Goes Ahead of Not

The Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) announced today that it would take one month to decide if the recall referendum against Maduro can go ahead or not. The CNE’s decision will depend on the results of an electoral process scheduled for October 26, 27 and 28, during which the opposition must collect approximately 3.8 million signatures in favour of holding a referendum against Maduro.

Even though the CNE could likely know the results of the process as early as October 29, the body will still take one month to make its final announcement on the recall effort against Maduro.

The CNE’s announcement states that the organization will announce whether the recall goes ahead or not “on November 28 or 29″.

The recall referendum process began in March of this year, and has been marked by extended waiting periods that appear to be disconnected from actual logistical reasons. While the recall referendum is far from certain eight months into the process, Henry Ramos Allup has pointed out that Colombia managed to hold its own national referendum in just six weeks, and that it took them just two hours to tally up the more than 13 million votes cast in the process.


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