For the second time in two months, inmates inside the El Helicoide prison in Caracas are in control of the facility after they staged a mutiny there yesterday afternoon. The inmates, many of whom are political prisoners, are being held by the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional [SEBIN], the regime’s political police.
The inmates are requesting that the Truth Commission–a powerful entity that is part of Maduro’s Constituent Assembly–send a delegation to the prison to negotiate with the inmates. The Truth Commission holds broad powers, and could order the transfer or the release of prisoners.
The inmates have been posting videos from inside the prison throughout the day.
In the video below, a group of inmates make their demand:
Man: Today is July 10, and it’s 7:30 in the morning. The situation here is one in which the prisoners are in complete control of this facility. We have only one clear and irrevocable request: we want the truth commission to come here to this facility, that they set themselves up here in El Helicoide and analyse [our cases] case-by-case.
Those who have release orders should be freed immediately; those whose conditions have to be revised should have their conditions revised; those who should be transferred to hospital should be transferred to hospital; those who should be taken to SAIME [the Venezuelan migration control office] to be deported to their country should be taken to SAIME to be deported to their country.
The Truth Commission is the only [body] that can solve our problems today.
At stake is the fact that many of the prisoners in El Helicoide have been granted measures that the authorities are evidently ignoring. For example, while judges have ordered two of the inmates in the prison released, their SEBIN captures are not complying with the order.
Alfredo Romero, the head of the Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV), said today that ten of the inmates in El Helicoide are political prisoners. He also said that the inmates have been held incommunicado for at least 55 days, during which time their captors have prohibited visits from their lawyers and relatives.
Below, a video from one of the inmates, a political prisoner who is a member of the Voluntad Popular opposition party:
Man: My name is [unintelligible]. I’m a member of Voluntad Popular. I’ve been imprisoned here in El Helicoide since February 21, 2018. Right now, it’s 8:00 AM. We are standing up. We’re standing up because we are asking for our rights, since they violate every right here. We’re demanding the presence of the Truth Commission, which is the only entity that could resolve these problems. So, I’m calling on my comrades–we are firm, strong, we feel strong, and we’re still fighting.
Back in mid-May, inmates took over control of the prison–known colloquially as “La Tumba” (“The Tomb”) after one of their own was brutally beaten by his captors.
Mexico Readies To Ease Pressure on Maduro
The government of Mexico is poised to ease pressure on the Maduro regime following the election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as president on July 2. The new stance would come into effect on December 1 of this year, the day that the president-elect takes control of the country.
The news came from the incoming Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, who said in a radio interview yesterday:
Mexico will follow a foreign policy that respects non-intervention.
In this way, Ebrard considers that going to the Organization of American States (OAS) or denouncing events in other countries is intervention.
Ebrard also suggested that the kind of international pressure that has been placed on the Maduro regime at organizations like the OAS has been due “in good measure” by efforts from the United States.
Mexico’s new stance could give the Maduro regime invaluable breathing room as international pressure continues to mount of its systemic human rights violations.
In late May, an expert panel at the OAS released a 400-page report detailing the human rights abuses that have been carried out by regime officials since 2013, and concluded that there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that regime officials have committed crimes against humanity.
Clip Shows Dangers of “Perreras”
Venezuela’s public transportation system has not been spared the crisis. Chronic shortages of new vehicles and repair parts have made buses and increasingly rare sight on streets throughout the country.
This reality has given rise to a new mode of transportation: “perreras” (“dog kennels”). While they come in many shapes and sizes, a perrera is a cargo truck that has been re-purposed to carry people.
Because perreras were never meant to carry human passengers, they are a particularly dangerous mode of transportation. As of June, the Comite de Usuarios del Transporte Publico [Public Transport Users’ Committee] estimated that 26 people have been killed in perrera-related events since the start of the year.
The video below was recorded yesterday, and shows a perrera that has tipped over on the side of a highway. As dazed passengers stumble out of the disabled vehicle, indignant onlookers mill about:
Woman Recording: We have to record and report this, because this is a problem that was bound to happen. This was bound to happen. It was bound to happen.
How much longer will this go on? People are getting used to this. We have to report this. There are pregnant women [here] and newborns, women with newborns. We’re here in San Diego, in front of El Poblado. In front of El Poblado, in front of the shopping mall.
Look, women with newborns. How much longer will this go on? We’re here in San Diego. We need [public] transportation here. These are people with jobs. Look: these are workers, elderly people, How much longer will this go on? We’re here in Carabobo state. How much longer will this go on? How much longer will we put up with this? How much longer?
Look: students, injured people. This is too much.
Speaking at the National Assembly today, deputy Nora Bracho said that more 90% of the public transport vehicles in Venezuela were not in service.
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