Almost one-thousand relatives of incarcerated prisoners are illegally occupying a prison in Venezuela in order to demand quicker trials for their loved ones who are locked up and languishing in jails.
They are also protesting prison conditions throughout Venezuela.
The Associated Press reported that the protesters comprised about 800 women, 150 children and a handful of teenagers and adult men.
Iris Varela, the minister of prisons, said the inmates’ family members have kidnapped themselves at the Yare I and II prisons, which is located about 40 miles southwest of the capital, Caracas.
This is not the way to apply pressure, she added.
Carlos Nieto, the head of the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, or OVP, told the Efe news agency: Around 1,000 visitors, some being held by force and other remaining voluntarily -- so this is not entirely a case of kidnapping - remained after their overnight stay together with the 1,900 prisoners at Yare I and Yare II, who later allowed old people and women with babies to leave.”
President Hugo Chavez has reportedly ordered prison officials to negotiate peacefully with the protesters.
However, according to state-controlled radio, Varela charged that organizations financed by the U.S. intelligence agency CIA are seeking to exploit the situation to destabilize the country.
Venezuela, which has one of the world’s highest crime and murder rates, also is plagued by dangerous, overcrowded prisons.
Chavez formed the Prison Ministry just last summer in response to a riot at another prison facility.
According to OVP, from Jan. 1 to Oct. 30, 2011, 487 prisoners died in Venezuelan jails and detention centers, up from 476 in 2010.
Fox News Latino reported that thirty-four jails in Venezuela currently hold 44.520 prisoners – although they were designed for only 14,500.