The Last Hell of Young Virgilio

Virgilio Jiménez was detained during a demonstration, in November 2017. On February 5th, he died in jail due to an infection he would've recovered from if he hadn't been severely malnourished. He’s the 12th Venezuelan inmate to die in such circumstances in 2019, and in the same state: Lara.

Photo: Costa Del Sol FM retrieved

20-year-old Virgilio Jiménez was detained on November 21st, 2017, while protesting against Maduro’s regime. The repressive forces took him in Las Trinitarias, in Eastern Barquisimeto. When he was detained, military officers planted a tear gas canister in his backpack and then he was indicted for terrorism. He never had a court hearing.

This week, he became the latest victim dying in prison due to severe malnutrition and an infection he got when he was serving time in the David Viloria (former Uribana) prison in Barquisimeto. According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons, 12 inmates have died for lack of food and medical attention so far in 2019, across various facilities in Lara.

His sister, Yoliana Uzcátegui says that she last saw Virgilio in December before prison visits were suspended in January. She noticed he was frail, thin and sickly. The last time Yoliana managed to talk to Virgilio was in a phone call; his brother told her he had a fever and asked her to send him medicine and food. He said that there were no pills in the prison’s infirmary and that the food they got came rotten with cockroach legs and worms.

Yoliana got the medicines to treat her brother’s fever, but the guards didn’t let her through. As days went by, Virgilio’s situation worsened. On February 2nd, Virgilio was rushed to the central hospital of Barquisimeto, dehydrated, evacuating liquid and blood clots from a hemorrhage. Six other inmates were with Virgilio, coming from the Fénix prison and with the same symptoms. One of them, Ángel España, was dead before he reached the hospital.

That same day, Virgilio was taken back to the prison and was confined to the infirmary since then. He kept evacuating blood. In the afternoon on Tuesday, February 5th, when he was rushed to the hospital again, Yoliana managed to see him: “Virgilio arrived at the hospital covered in shit, but there were blood clots everywhere. The doctor told me to prepare for the worst, that Virgilio was really bad. My brother was raving and telling me that he’d beaten the Viloria, that he’d escape today but that he couldn’t do it because he thought of me. When he made sense he did tell me that he couldn’t eat because the blood didn’t stop and that he hadn’t eaten for days.” Virgilio had lost 88 pounds during his stay in Uribana. He died at 10:00 p.m. that day.

His neighbors and relatives called him “The Lion.” He lived in a community in El Ujano and was the youngest of two siblings. His family is devastated: they know he was merely protesting. That’s how he ended up in a penitentiary system where food and medicine are even more scarce than in the street, especially for prisoners who can’t survive on their own. Will there be enough humanitarian aid for prisons?