Caracas, Venezuela – Juan Carlos Herrera is beyond devastated. He says his 25-year-old-son, jailed in 2015 for robbery, was beaten, dismembered and eaten by fellow inmates at the Táchira Detention Center.
The shocking claim became public on Oct. 10, when Herrera told the local media he made the gruesome discovery during a regular prison visit.
He explained the alleged atrocity occurred during a month-long mutiny that had ended three days earlier.
“One of those who were with him when he was murdered saw everything that happened,” Herrera told reporters. “My son and two others were taken by 40 people, stabbed, hanged to bleed, and then Dorancel butchered them to feed all detainees,” he added, referring to infamous inmate Dorancel “people-eater” Vargas, who is in prison since 1999 for cannibalism.
“The [inmate] with whom I spoke to told me that he was beaten with a hammer [in order] to force him to eat the remains of the two boys,” Herrera added tearfully.
Herrera declined an interview with Fox News Latino due to safety concerns.
Juan Carlos Herrera Jr. and one other inmate were unaccounted for when prison guards re-entered the facility after the calm returned and did a routine count. The Táchira mutiny had started as do many of the hundreds of mutinies that take place in Venezuelan prisons every year – so far this year there have been close to 200 riots, according to the non-governmental organization “Una Ventana a la Libertad” (A Window to Freedom).
On Sept. 8, a group of prisoners protesting overcrowded conditions took eight visitors and two guards hostage and demanded some of the 350 prisoners be transferred somewhere else (the Tachira Detention Center’s capacity is 120). A month goes by and finally, on Oct. 7, the government authorizes the transfer of 16 inmates.
The next day, Herrera and Anthony Correa were nowhere to be found.
A police source who asked to remain anonymous told Fox News Latino the claims of murder and cannibalism are true. “Two [inmates] are missing. They cut them up and fed them to several [of the fellow inmates], they made the bones disappear. Dorancel cut the flesh,” the source said.
On Thursday night, the Minister of Correctional Affairs Iris Varela confirmed the disappearance but denied the cannibalism allegations. She said while she “understands the father’s pain,” she regretted that he’s being used to channel lies that can be “easily debunked.”
Humberto Prado, coordinator of the Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP) said the alleged atrocity would be nothing new in the country’s convulsed prisons.
“Prisoners have been dismembered before and some inmates have forced other prisoners eat their [own] fingers. That happened in a detention center in El Tigre,” he told FNL. “But inmates die not only from that [kind of violence], there are many prisoners who die of hepatitis, cirrhosis or famine.”
He said the OVP will ask the Attorney’s General Office to start an investigation and will submit the case to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
"What hurts me most is that I cannot bury my son, I can’t give him a Christian burial,” Herrera said in the emotional presser. “I beg you to give me at least one bone so we can bury him and relieve some of this pain.”
Alex Vasquez is a freelance reporter living in Caracas, Venezuela.