La Patilla recently visited inmates at the Miranda State Police (Polimiranda) jail in the city of Guarenas. The video includes an interview with Elisio Guzman Cedeno, the head of Polimiranda, and outlines the extremely difficult conditions facing the men held in the institution.
In Venezuela, anyone who is arrested is usually held in police jails while their case is being processed by the courts. However, given the poor state of the country’s judicial system, a case might take years to come to a conclusion, meaning that a defendant – even an innocent one – may spend months or years in a police jail.
Police jails tend to be relatively small installations meant to hold a few dozen inmates at most for a period of no more than a couple of days. The nightmarish pace of the judicial process in Venezuela means that the jails are always filled to well beyond their intended capacity.
Below, the video along with my translation:
Polimiranda Dungeons. Guarenas, Miranda state.
These dungeons are meant to be transitory. They should hold inmates for two or three days. Some of them have been here from two months to four years. The judicial delays force them to stay in the dungeons.
Commissioner General Elisio Guzman Cedeño, Director of the Miranda State Police: At this moment, overcrowding is at one-hundred-and-something percent. We sometimes find that the inmates have scabies, or a simple cold will infect a large number of the men detained here.
They receive visits from relatives two days of the week. [The relatives] are responsible for their food.
Commissioner Cedeño: We believe that every courthouse should have its own detention centre for the individuals who are being tried in the court. Then, after passing [through the court] the judge should determine where they should go. The police can’t be used for this [holding inmates indefinitely].
Man off-camera: Are you the one who’s been here for three years?
Prisoner: [Emerging from shadows, nods “yes”].
Commissioner Cedeño: We’re generally susceptible to the spread of disease, and are [unable to] provide a response to these diseases. Tuberculosis, in this situation, is a response to the conditions in which the inmates are being held… [and] it’s not that they’re not eating at all, but their food intake does decrease drastically which affects them physically.
Man off-camera: What can that lead to?
Commissioner Cedeño: Death, eventually. Death. We’ve condemned them.
Inmate in Black Tank-Top: … everyone, everyone here has scabies and abscesses and stuff like that.
Inmate in Black and Yellow: Look, we’ve got a population here of 70 prisoners, but this installation is meant for fewer people than that, do you know what I mean? […] Before that, we have to wait and wait and wait for the [judicial] process […] The officials bring us chlorine and garbage bags. They do give us that.
Man off-camera: And what happens when you get sick?
Inmate in Black and Yellow: Well, yeah, sometimes they take us out [unintelligible]. They take us out.
Teary-Eyed Inmate: [unintelligible] because I don’t get food or anything here. Nothing like that.
Man off-camera: No one brings you food?
Teary-Eyed Inmate: No. No one.
Man off-camera: How long have you been here?
Teary-Eyed Inmate: One month and nine days.
Man off-camera: One month and nine days. And how are you eating?
Teary-Eyed Inmate: Well, with whatever they [pointing to inmates] help me with.
Man off-camera: Your cell mates help you?
Teary-Eyed Inmate: Of course.
Man off-camera: What do you need to get transferred out of here?
Teary-Eyed Inmate: The space [I think he means, “space in a courtroom” or “space in a prison”].
Man off-camera: Only the space? Have you been sentenced already?
Teary-Eyed Inmate: No. Forty-five days [I think the inmate answered incorrectly and has indeed been sentenced to forty-five days in prison. However, he’s still being kept in the police jail and not an actual prison].
Man off-camera: And you’re still within the forty-five days.
Man with Gray Eyes: I haven’t been transferred yet. Why? Because of the fact that they [I’m not sure who he is referencing here] say that the leadership in Miranda state is escualida [a derogatory term for “opposition”]. For example, Polibaruta [Baruta Municipal Police], Poliplaza [?], Polichacao [Chacao Municipal Police] [unintelligible- it sounds like he says, “Inmates there are being transferred out all the time, and we should be like that”]. But we’re not because they don’t want to transfer us.
I’d personally like to come out because I’ve been here for two years and four months. [unintelligible]. But they tell me that if I get the [unintelligible], then I still have to wait like two years for it to happen.
First of all, being here isn’t at all easy. It’s hard being behind bars. Sometimes, depending on how the country is doing, we don’t get food, or just two or three times a week. Sometimes people go two or three weeks without eating. So whatever little he gets one day we all share, and whatever little I get one day I share so that we all get to eat a bit. But we’d like to have the chance to be out there again.
Poll: Leopoldo Lopez Most Likely To Win a Presidential Election
A poll by the Meganalisis firm released today reveals that if presidential elections were held this month and Leopoldo Lopez was in the running, he would win the election.
The poll asked the following question:
If for some reason there were a presidential election in Venezuela this coming Sunday, which of these candidates listed in alphabetical order would you vote for?
Below is a list of the results, with the percentage of respondents who said they would vote for the candidate:
- Leopoldo Lopez: 17.8%
- Henry Falcon: 15.3%
- Henry Ramos Allup: 10.2%
- Diosdado Cabello: 6.5%
- Henrique Capriles: 5.2%
- Claudio Fermin: 3.0%
The same poll found that 45% of respondents believe that Lopez should be released from prison, while 22.4% believe he should remain in prison. Lopez is currently one year into a nearly 14-year long prison sentence for his role in the 2014 anti-government protests.
ConocoPhillips Sues PDVSA For “Fraudulent” Behaviour
U.S. energy giant ConocoPhillips is suing PDVSA for what it calls the “fraudulent” operations involving Citgo, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.
The lawsuit, which was filed in a Delaware court, alleges that by using Citgo as collateral in an ongoing bond swap, PDVSA is in fact attempting to prevent ConocoPhillips from collecting money it is owed over a 2007 dispute.
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