It took months of inaction, but Colombia’s government finally turned Villavicencio’s prison into the perfect coronavirus petri dish from where its prison chief infected at least three more prisons.
The result of introducing the coronavirus to a prison with a 98% overcrowding rate, an average temperature of 78.5°F, a 65% humidity rate and a ration of three hours of water a day would impress many wanna-be death camp directors.
Almost 300 of the 1,900 inmates, and at least 13 prison guards and cooks were confirmed to be infected with the virus on Tuesday. Four are dead.
Even a 12-year-old boy was infected after hanging out near the wardens of the prison with more registered coronavirus infections than the country’s second largest city, Medellin.
“We are grateful for the support and commitment of the national government for attending this emergency in the penitentiary,” Meta governor Juan Guillermo Zuluaga said Tuesday without a whiff of sarcasm.
“You have to ask for the resignation of Ivan Duque who of all the presidents in the world was the one who permitted the arrival of COVID-19 in the prison system,” prison guard union leader Diana Salinas responded Wednesday.
The prison guards have filed criminal charges against the director of prison authority INPEC who spread the virus to at least three other prisons by transferring infected prisoners from Villavicencio.
The inmates are beyond terrified. “We’ve been condemned to death,” one told weekly Semana.
Justice Minister Margarita Cabello preffered to look at the bright side of the carnage she was causing after ignoring warnings for months. “We’ve had a lot of negative cases, which is a good thing that must also be said,” she told W Radio.
While some inmates have effectively been condemned to death, one third of Colombia’s prisoners hasn’t even been convicted. Some convicts have long served their time, but were simply never released.
But also this had its advantages, according to Cabello. “They are helping us producing surgical material…they are helping us provide masks, which is something we are thankful for,” said the minister who, like many criminals, may be able to evade prison.