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233 detained without bail over recent violence, looting, riots in Venezuela

By Andrew V. Pestano
233 detained without bail over recent violence, looting, riots in Venezuela
Venezuela's Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz on Thursday said that out of 424 people initially arrested due to violent incidents last Friday through Sunday, 233 were ordered to be held without bail. The violent incidents occurred amid instability caused by President Nicolas Maduro's decision to remove the 100 bolivar banknote despite the fact that the higher-currency banknotes set to replace the bill were not available. Photo courtesy of Luisa Ortega Díaz

CARACAS, Venezuela, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Venezuela's Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz said 233 people are detained without bail over recent violence related to panic caused by a currency removal, which sparked some riots.

Speaking in a press conference from Carabobo, Ortega Díaz on Thursday said 424 people were initially arrested due to violent incidents that occurred from last Friday through Sunday. Of those arrested, 338 were presented before a court -- 233 of which were ordered to be held without bail; 79 ordered to present themselves to courts periodically; 16 were fully released; nine were released on bail; and one ordered to serve house arrest.

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Charges against those detained include aggravated theft, incitement, instigation to disobedience of laws and instigation to the devastation, looting and fire to buildings, the prosecutor added.

Ortega Díaz said police officers were also arrested during the incidents and charged with improper use of a weapon.

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The violent incidents occurred in the Venezuelan states of Bolívar, Apure, Anzoátegui, Aragua, Barinas, Falcon, Sucre, Táchira and Zulia. Ortega Díaz said four firearms were seized and four people died, but did not specify in which state.

"There were people who instigated the looting and the commission of crimes," Ortega Díaz said, also urging security officials to use additional judgment to not apprehend innocent people.

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Venezuela is facing an economic crisis in which basic goods such as food, toiletries and medicine are in short supply, unavailable or unaffordable due to unprecedented inflation.

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The Central Bank of Venezuela earlier this month announced it would release new higher-value banknotes to help Venezuelans deal with inflation, as the 100 bolivar bill was the highest denomination. Considering some items in Venezuela required people to use hundreds or thousands of 100 bolivar bills for purchases, the bank increased the highest denomination to 20,000 bolivars.

But President Nicolas Maduro later ordered the 100 bolivar bill out of circulation within a short period of time before the new bills were introduced to the Venezuelan economy, which helped cause violent instability as Venezuelans rushed to receive bills that were not available to replace bills that were soon to be ruled illegal.

After the incidents and the delay in new banknote delivery, Maduro pushed bank the 100 bolivar bill's removal until early January.

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