Thousands of inmates end hunger strike in Venezuelan prisons

CARACAS, Venezuela — Thousands of prisoners across Venezuela have ended a hunger strike after authorities agreed to some of their demands, a watchdog group said Thursday.

Inmates at multiple prisons began the protest Monday following clashes last week in Tocoron prison that left at least 16 dead and dozens wounded, said Humberto Prado of the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory. He said the protest grew to an estimated 18,000 inmates at 11 facilities before ending Wednesday night.

They were demanding a withdrawal of troops sent to guard Tocoron and a resumption of family visits suspended after the riot, Prado said.

Nenci Villalobos, the public ombudsman in north-central Aragua state, told the state-run Venezuelan News Agency that officials agreed Wednesday to allow family visits again and to set up provisional courts in the prison, to try to ease a case backlog that has caused many to be imprisoned for long periods without trial.

The 5,000 inmates at Tocoron then halted their hunger strike, as did most prisoners elsewhere who were protesting in solidarity.

Prado said a hunger strike was continuing at one prison in the southeastern city of Ciudad Bolivar, where inmates are pressing for different demands including the removal of the warden, improved conditions and attention to their own delayed court cases.

Venezuelan prisons are often crowded and violent. Last year, 366 inmates were reported killed nationwide.

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