More than 950 relatives of inmates launched a protest occupation of a Venezuelan prison over the New Year holiday, saying they will refuse to leave the facility until authorities agree to their demand for faster trials for their loved ones. Prisons Minister Iris Varela sad the relatives decided to “kidnap themselves” at the Yare I and II prison about 70 kilometers southwest of Caracas. They include 800 women and 150 children and youth, as well as a few men. Varela said President Hugo Chávez has told authorities to negotiate peacefully. But, while Venezuela’s prisons are dangerously overcrowded, Varela also alleged that human rights groups financed by the CIA are trying to use the occupation “to destabilize the country.” (AP, Jan. 4)
The statement comes amid much apparent paranoia in Venezuelan political circles of late about subversive conspiracies from Washington. The Obama administration last week slammed President Chávez for “horrific and reprehensible” suggestions that the US may have found a way to give him cancer, along with other Latin American leaders. Chávez, who had surgery in June to remove a tumor, noted in a nationally televised speech that many left-leaning Latin leaders have recently been diagnosed with cancer, including Argentina’s Cristina Fernández, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “It would not be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it until now,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m just reflecting. But this is very, very, very strange… It’s a bit difficult to explain this, to reason it, including using the law of probabilities.” (Politico, Dec. 29)
There was also recently speculation in Venezuela’s state media that the US somehow caused last year’s Haiti earthquake.
See our last post on Venezuela.