A riot erupted on Wednesday (May 16) at a crowded Caracas detention centre and jailed opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and a Mormon missionary from Utah begged for freedom and help in postings on social media, according to videos and relatives.
"This has been taken over peacefully by all the political prisoners and all the prisoners who are abducted here, who are tortured daily", a man who identified himself as a prisoner said in a video.
A group of about 30 people, many of them family members of inmates considered by many to be political prisoners, gathered outside the jail to seek information about their loved ones as a number of videos and audio recordings from inside the jail flooded social media.
Wednesday, several news agencies reported Helicoide, the prison where Holt is detained, was under attack and that "officials [were throwing] tear gas bombs at the families of the inmates inside the prison facilities".
Reuters was unable to independently confirm the origin of the videos or circumstances under which they were made.
The US embassy released a photo of Todd Robinson, the top American diplomat in Venezuela, leaving the foreign ministry and saying he had received no information from the Government about the "riot". "That delegation spoke to a representative of the prisoners to respond to their requests", chief prosecutor Tarek Saab tweeted.
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Josh Holt, 26, can be seen in a Facebook video pleading for help from the USA government after claiming that the prison "has fallen" to people wanting to kill him. "They say they're doing things, but I'm still here", Holt said.
The only people who are kidnapping me is the government of Venezuela. His mother Laurie Holt confirmed the account belonged to her son.
Activists said the incident had been precipitated by the beating of activist Gregory Sanabria from the state of Tachira.
A flurry of videos that were posted on social media and could not be immediately verified purported to show El Helicoide's inmates fleeing their cells and issuing pleas for outside help. Maduro has said all jailed activists were being held on legitimate charges of violence and subversion.
His family has denied the accusations, and believe the Venezuelan government is holding Holt and his wife to bargain with the USA, which has imposed economic sanctions on the country.
A third video shows a United States citizen, John Holt, who was arrested in Caracas in 2016 and has yet to be tried.