The Latest: Relatives say guards poured gas before fire

March 29, 2018
Police officers disperse the relatives of prisoners who were waiting to hear news about their family members imprisoned at a police station when a riot broke out, in Valencia, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 28, 2018. In a state police station housing more than one hundred prisoners, a riot culminated in a fire, requiring authorities to open a hole in a wall to rescue the inmates. (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Hernandez)

VALENCIA, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on a riot and fire inside a police station in Venezuela (all times local):

3:15 p.m.

The relatives of a man who died in a catastrophic blaze that swept through a Venezuelan police station jail say he called his wife shortly before the fire to say that guards were pouring gasoline in the cellblock.

Family members say Daniel Marquez told his wife that jailers planned to kill the prisoners and urged her to call lawyers and other inmates’ relatives.

Marquez’s sister-in-law, Sorangel Gutierrez, says that when relatives arrived at the building they were told to stay away. Smoke began billowing from the police building soon after.

Venezuelan officials say 68 people were killed in the fire Wednesday. They have not released any details on the cause of the blaze.


11:45 a.m.

A lawyer advocating for families of those killed in a Venezuelan police station fire says many of the prisoners were kept for lengthy periods in violation of the law.

Juan Carlos Marquiana says inmates can only be held at the police detention facility where 68 people were killed on Wednesday for up to 45 days after a sentencing.

He says prisoners were often held there for much longer, including up to three years.

Rights groups have complained that prisoners who hadn’t appeared before a judge were also kept longer than the customary 48-hour holding time.

Advocates say the nation’s jails and prisons have deteriorated rapidly as the country experiences an economic crisis worse than the Great Depression.


9:30 a.m.

Authorities are beginning to notify relatives of 68 people killed in a fire at a Venezuelan police station jail.

Felix Brugera says officials arrived at his home early Thursday morning and told him his 25-year-old son Eduardo had died.

Brugera says his son had spent four months detained for allegedly robbing a cell phone.

“This is not justice,” he said, accusing police of murdering his son.

About 75 people are gathered outside of what remains of the site of Wednesday’s tragedy.


7:45 a.m.

Human rights leaders in Venezuela are demanding a thorough investigation into a riot and fire that left 68 people dead at a police station jail.

The Venezuelan Prisons Observatory says it has been warning for some time about deteriorating conditions in the nation’s jails.

According to the group, many prisoners are facing severe hunger as Venezuela’s economy rapidly declines and being kept in overcrowded cells. Many are also being held for months at police station jails where they should only be detained for a maximum of two or three days.

Officials say four prosecutors have been named to determine what happened at the jail Wednesday in Valencia.


12:50 a.m.

Venezuela’s chief prosecutor says 68 people died during a fire that erupted in a police station Wednesday after a riot involving prisoners.

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab says on his official Twitter account that four prosecutors have been named to determine what happened in Valencia, a town about 100 miles from Caracas.

Local officials had earlier confirmed only that there had been fatalities. They said they were working to determine the exact number and declined to provide any estimates “out of respect for the families.”

Distraught relatives clamoring for information about detained loved ones clashed with police outside the station during the day. Officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

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