Venezuelan Prisons

Re: Behind Bars in Venezuela

To the Editor:

I am American who was incarcerated in Venezuela for four years for drug trafficking. I spent two years at I.N.O.F. in Los Teques and two years in Merida prison. The conditions in these prisons are inhuman. From outside you can't see how the inmates live day by day. After a year and a half of leaving those horrible places I still can't sleep at peace knowing that so many foreigners are still there; not only Americans, but from all over the world. Foreigners stick together to survive.

It's not only the bad food, the very poor hygiene, the fact that there is no medicine, its also the struggle to survive. The security is very, very poor. We as foreigners are not safe in the Venezuelan prison. Security only protects us when we pay them, and even then they hardly do so. Emotionally we get destroyed and unfortunately we have to fight back to make it alive out the prison. Most of us are mothers that struggle with families to support and end up making the mistake of choosing to put our freedom at risk for our families. These wrong choices not only take away our freedom, but sometimes our lives. I saw a 19-year old British girl die because she suffered from diabetes and needed insulin. I saw her die slowly while we where screaming for help from security. They actually took 35 minutes to call rescue, and rescue took another 20 to 30 minutes to arrive. At the prison premises they have no kind of emergency help or equipment. There were others like the British girl who did not receive help in time. Many get stabbed, beaten, stolen, raped, with no help at all. The injustice there rules and there is nobody doing anything about it.

There are so many horrible stories I could tell from my experience in the Venezuelan prisons, so many things I know, but I worry about the ones left behind and fear for their safety. Only God can help these people, or maybe someone that is willing to fight for justice. I want to thank the United States embassy in Venezuela that helped me so much and that gave me support, not only financially but also emotionally. Thanks to their efforts today I am back in the USA, for I was one of the four people that came in the transfer treaty in 2004.

Madelyn Melendez
Miami, Fla.