San Pedro Prison Mutiny: Government Decries Mass Escape Attempt

La Paz, 26-Mar-2011: Once again inmates at the San Pedro Prison in La Paz embarked on a violent protest within the prison walls, this time against a proposal by the government to increase their daily meal stipend by 20%. Between 10:00 and 12:30 in the morning, police surrounded the prison and employed teargas and water cannons against prisoners who were throwing rocks, sticks, bottles, and glass.

The prisoners, who must rent their rooms and purchase their own meals, currently receive a stipend of Bs. 5 (about us$0.72) per day. The government has offered to increase this to Bs. 6.60 but inmates are demanding Bs. 15.

TV news teams, live on the scene, reported that family members were indicating numerous children were in the prison and that several had passed out from the smoke and teargas. One police officer was hit with a hand-made "molotov" firework and was taken to the hospital.

The government and the police claim the inmates were attempting a mass escape. Police commander Cnl. Ciro Farfán agreed. "They carried out a mass escape plan and used the problem regarding the stipend as a justification to do so. This was planned well in advance," he stated.

Marcos Farfán, Vice Minister of the Interior Regimen, showed images of the damaged doors and broken locks, which would have enabled prisoners to escape. He added that the public prosecutor's office had been notified "to ensure further investigation and prosecution of those who headed up this plan".

"That's the justification the police use for their violent measures. In this prison, if an inmate doesn't escape it's because he doesn't want to," responded one inmate. The inmates at the San Miguel de Uncía prison in Potosí, the Palmasola prison in Santa Cruz, and the Obrajes Women's Prison in La Paz, all threatened mutiny demanding a Bs. 15 daily stipend, improvements to the prison infrastructure, and changes to Law No. 007.

Hours later, at the San Pedro Prison, inmates supported an agreement reached by inmates in the Cochabamba prison (who had protested during previous days) indicating they would accept the same agreement as long as the stipend offered is Bs. 10, with cooperation from the state government.

Inmates at the Cochabamba Prison Accept the 20% Increase

Inmates at the prisons in Cochabamba, with the exception of prisoners at the San Sebastián Men's Prison, accepted the 20% stipend increase and suspended their protests. They are hoping that in the future their daily meal stiped will be increased to Bs. 10.

Sissi Gutiérrez, director of the Cochabamba Prison Regimen, indicated that now negotiations for an increase in the stipend must be carried out with the state government.

A San Antonio Prison delegate stated they are hoping for positive results from the negotiations with the state governments. "At least we've achieved something, always looking out for the security of our companions because we saw how they repressed our comrades in La Paz. We don't want the same thing to happen in Cochabamba. That's why we decided stop the measures we were taking".

A meeting between inmate delegates from six prisons, representatives of the Prison Regimen, and the Ombudsman made enabled the signing of this pre-agreement.

Family Members Evicted

Many inmates' wives and children live with them inside the prison. Last night police evicted the inmate's family members by force from San Pedro while Government Minister Sacha Llorenti ratified that the stipend would be increased by 20%, indicating it fully compensated the increase in the national inflation rate.

Source: La Razón (portions)     Date: 26-Mar-2011     Spanish

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