The Venezuelan government has offered condolences to families of 68 inmates who died in a jail fire.Venezuela’s government has broken its silence about a riot and fire in a police station’s cells that killed dozens of prisoners on Wednesday, issuing a statement on Friday night sending condolences to relatives and promising an investigation.
“The Bolivarian government of the Venezuelan republic … sends its profound condolences to the relatives and loved ones of each of the people who died in this unfortunate incident,” the statement by the Foreign Ministry read.
The statement did not give any details on the cause of the disaster, which inmates’ relatives and a surviving prisoner told Reuters stemmed from a shootout with police in an overcrowded and lawless jail.
Weeping relatives arrived at the central cemetery in the industrial city of Valencia on Friday carrying the caskets of many of the 68 victims who were killed in the fire to place them in a freshly dug mass tomb.
Venezuela’s opposition says leftist president Nicolas Maduro’s response to the deaths in Valencia has been woefully insufficient.
Maduro has yet to personally speak about the incident and has instead been tweeting about Easter holidays, a visit by Hollywood actor Danny Glover, and the upcoming presidential election.
In its statement, Venezuela also criticised the United Nations human rights office for “precipitated and disproportionate” comments about the disaster.
From Geneva, the United Nations had called on Venezuelan authorities to carry out a speedy investigation and provide reparations to victims’ families.
Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said those comments betrayed “bias” and were part of a “multi pronged attack” against the South American nation.
Prison violence has been an issue in Venezuela long before Maduro’s late predecessor Hugo Chavez took office in 1999.
But opposition politicians said the Valencia disaster was another sign of the ruling socialists’ incompetence in a country that is deep in economic crisis and is plagued with food shortages, hyperinflation, and rampant crime.