Venezuela Prison Fire Sparks Violent Pre-Easter Protests

In this May 29, 2013 photo, a Eucharistic Minister serves communion during Mass at a Catholic church in Caracas, Venezuela. Church officials say food shortages and foreign exchange restrictions are causing a lack of ingredients needed to celebrate Mass: altar wine as well as wheat to produce communion wafers.
In this May 29, 2013 photo, a Eucharistic Minister serves communion during Mass at a Catholic church in Caracas, Venezuela. Church officials say food shortages and foreign exchange restrictions are causing a lack of ingredients needed to celebrate Mass: altar wine as well as wheat to produce communion wafers. AP Photo/Fernando Llano
In this May 29, 2013 photo, a Eucharistic Minister serves communion during Mass at a Catholic church in Caracas, Venezuela. Church officials say food shortages and foreign exchange restrictions are causing a lack of ingredients needed to celebrate Mass: altar wine as well as wheat to produce communion wafers.
In this May 29, 2013 photo, a Eucharistic Minister serves communion during Mass at a Catholic church in Caracas, Venezuela. Church officials say food shortages and foreign exchange restrictions are causing a lack of ingredients needed to celebrate Mass: altar wine as well as wheat to produce communion wafers. AP Photo/Fernando Llano

Venezuela Prison Fire Sparks Violent Pre-Easter Protests

Venezuela is suffering from the deadliest political and economic turmoil Latin America has seen in years. With protests that have left hundreds dead since 2016, a mass exodus of at least 600,000 people, and a food shortage so severe that the country’s Catholics can’t even bake communion bread for the upcoming Easter holiday. Tensions are high. So when a fire left at least 68 people dead in one of the world’s most overcrowded prisons, people took to the streets once again. Many of the prisoners were political dissidents. Several victims accused the police of lighting the fires to silence an unsanctioned party in the prison. To discuss, we’re joined by David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and curator of WOLA’s Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog. He’s also professor of sociology at Tulane University and co-editor of Venezuela's Bolivarian Democracy: Participation, Politics and Culture under Chávez.