Venezuela’s Prison Shame

Since 2000, Venezuela’s prison capacity has grown by 1,200 places, thanks to the expansion of Yare Penitenciary and the construction of a new jail in Coro. In the same period, our prison population has grown from about 25,000 to 37,700. (Other estimates peg it at 38,100.)

Depending on whose numbers you want to go with, the currently installed prison capacity was designed for 17,000 to 22,000 inmates.

To match Brazil’s incarceration rate – far from the highest around – Venezuela would need to imprison 72,000 people.

The Chávez era has seen no fewer than 11 different interior ministers and 17 different vice-ministers for prisons who, between them, have announced 10 separate prison reform and “humanization” plans.

There are two people awaiting or being tried (procesados) in Venezuelan jails for every one person serving out a sentence (penados.)

More than 4,000 people died in Venezuelan jails between 1999 and 2009 – averaging more than one fatality per day every year since 2006. In Colombia, with two to three times our prison population, fewer than 40 inmates are killed each year.

The Venezuelan State has been ordered repeatedly, since 2007, to take urgent action to safeguard the lives of inmates at four Venezuelan jails (La Pica, Yare, Uribana and El Rodeo) by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights and has responding by threatening to prosecute the head of the NGO that brought the cases, Humberto Prado, for Treason and instigating civil rebellion.

But facts and figures only tell part of the story of Venezuela’s prison shame. To really get a sense of the scale of the scandal, you have to look at things like that photo on top of this post. You have to grasp that guns, drugs and cash circulate freely in Venezuela’s jails. That a number of jails have no safe drinking water, and in most cases family members are expected to provide most or all of the food consumed by inmates.

In most cases, Prison Guards consider their job limited to securing the perimeter, making little to no effort to check what happens inside prison gates. Inmates receive little to no medical attention. Rehabilitation? Yer kiddin’, right?

There are no short-cuts here, no magic formulas. Venezuela needs at least 50,000 additional prison places – and massive investment in recruiting, training and supporting a specialized force of prison guards and support staff, alongside a concerted push to improve court efficiency to prevent the outrageous denial of justice crouching behind that ghastly bureaucratic euphemism – “procedural delay” – because no right minded person can stomach a  system where poor people who can’t afford fancy lawyers or the bribes needed to nudge their files through the court system get stuck in hideously violent jails for years on end while they await trial.

Jail is only one stage in the flow process that is the Criminal Justice System. To stress the massive nature of the investment needed here is not to deny or obscure the need for balanced investment both earlier and later in the pipeline. In isolation, even massive investment in jails will not help us make inroads into Venezuela’s ghoulish crime stats.

And yet, we should be clear: the prison system we have is a national embarrassment, and making it larger, more humane, fairer, and more better able to keep the dangerously violent off the street needs to be a top priority for The Day After.

55 thoughts on “Venezuela’s Prison Shame

  1. Before the “Day After” and after the “Last Day”, I think we can expect the “Days of Transition”. These will include a complete breakdown of civil order followed by a period of chaos until order is restored by the military and martial law is established. Somewhere after that point, comes what I think you are referring to as the “Day After”.

    I think that somewhere during the “Days of Transition” the ranks of the malandros will be thinned considerably. I mean, let´s face it, in every neighborhood, it is no secret who are the bad guys and the military is going to have to nutralize them restore order. I sure don´t disagree about the need for prison reform, along with reform of the entire process of criminal justice from law enforcement, to the courts, and finally, the penal system. However, I suspect that we will emerge from the Transition without the need for as many jail cells as you calculate… unless of course it is decided to jail all those whom benefitted unjustly under the previous administration… but that is another kettle of fish all together.

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    • It’s likely – but certainly not a given – that the Transition will be chaotic. But no degree of chaos can be used to excuse or condone or minimize or shrug off any kind of massacre. I think this kind of non-challant talk is shocking.

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    • I agree with you, Quico.
      Deeply disturbing, besides assuming that the flow of force is npot going to be the other way.

      Short of a Gulag, I fail to see how would that happen, that the malandro numbers decrease substantially. I tell you, if what we have to endure is a Gulag to get to the promised land, I’ll stick with Chávez.

      No, thanks

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    • Quico, Juan, Guido,

      I am not condoning or excusing. I am predicting. When you have a nation that is unable to produce the food it consumes and runs out of money and credit to continue importing it, what else can you predict but a period of collapse and chaos?

      So far, in the five years I have been following Venezuelan politics, my most radical predictions have come true and my more moderate ones have fallen short of the mark. Tell me how is my scenario going to be avoided?

      As for the application of summary justice, over the last five years, Venezuela has allowed delinquency to thrive to the point which, for this class of citizen, they see it as “normal” and their “right”. This is not a genie that gets stuffed back into the bottle easily. Don´t blame your military when they are forced to do in a month or so, what the civilians failed to do over the last 12 years. Their methodology is bound to be less… judicious than a civilian system.

      Oh, and by the way, those of you who are shocked and outraged by this thought have not been held up, mugged, had your house robbed, been kidnapped, or had any of the above happen to your close friends and family. Virtually every person currently living in Venezuela falls into this category. So, yes, perhaps I just don´t care to worry so much about the rights of the bad guys until a general state of justice has been reestablished. If that shocks you, I am sorry, but I feel that way. For those living here, I don´t think my feelings on this are too far out of the mainstream.

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    • Nice straw man you did there.

      I guess that the times I have been beaten and mugged and that relatives of mine have been mugged, gotten their houses broken into, stabbed and shot do not count, and I must not be living in Venezuela, since I disagree with your wishful thinking of the military killing people indiscriminately.

      And, how are you going to tell who are the “bad guys”? Everybody that does not think like you? Everybody “obviously” thug looking?

      It’s scary the faith of some people in the military, trusting them to be the ultimate arbiters of justice. Even more so that some people thinks it’s better a system designed to kill and repress in industrial scale (a Gulag) rather than an inefficient, bombastic, authoritarian clown than we have now. This govt is bad, but whatever comes next might be much worse.

      Oh, right, if you are a nice, well behaved guy with a nice family, connected, you are all set. If you are thug looking and live in a barrio, tough shit.

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    • “I don´t think my feelings on this are too far out of the mainstream.”

      The mainstream picked up Chávez 12 years ago. How did that work?

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    • Brunni has a point even if I don’t think that is not the whole issue (see what I wrote earlier).

      Roy,
      During the Caracazo the military and the police just did what you said. They killed about 280 people (Chavistas have often claimed “between 270 and 3000″ but have never ever provided a list nor have they wanted to start an independent investigation of the issue, in spite of how many times several NGOs have demanded). I would say: they made the left radicals’ wet dream come true. That is what they were aiming at.

      Guido,
      I am totally with you rejecting Roy’s “predictions”. Still, I would not use the word gulag, as gulag is part of a very special period and region.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulag

      I would call what Roy has in mind (or predicts will happen) is “vigilante justice”.

      I do think the military and extreme left will try anything to provoke violence…because they know violence will engender violence and that is their natural medium. I do predict we face the danger of having a situation like what Colombia had in the fifties, La Violencia, only squared…unless we unmine the fields that Chávez fans have been planting for so long.

      People need to understand this: the commies, the ones who were so actively infiltrating the military for decades and who were the main creators of this gollem we have now, have a long history of training in “sabotage”. Chacín and the current head of the Venezuelan Military “Intelligence” and many others were/are actively trying to train their people in “the day they lose”.
      They will use criminals as these in a similar, although much more thorough and prepared fashion as Mubarak was trying to use thugs now.

      We need swift prevention. We need swift controls of police behaviour but also better police controls.

      We need a general public knowing that extremist groups look for violence and a general concensus that we need to reject violence.

      We need to differentiate and try to keep apart those who are criminals without political reasons and those who are also criminals but also have clear political motivations.

      Think about Freddy Bernal, former intelligence cop during the IV Republic, his dad was a high thug official under Pérez Jiménez.
      Think about Chacín, who was co-responsible for some massacres of innocent farmers and fishers during the IV Republic.

      The Soviet and the Nazi regimes used petty criminals a lot to keep control of the others. A lot of the NS and SS officers were either petty criminals or vigilantes who “redeemed” themselves.

      We need to learn from history and know we need to be careful to avoid radicalization, to avoid some groups using others.

      The police needs to be firm but kosher.

      And for goodness sake, keep the bloody milicos away. A slow transformation of military structures into something more civil is what we need.
      Milicos have always being the plague of Venezuela.

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    • Kepler:
      I know about the Gulag. . My point is that to decrease the number of “undesirable” people, which are so high, something like the Caracazo should not be enough, therefore, if you have milicos willing to appear strong, a Gulag-like structure seems possible.
      Pinochet might end looking tame.

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    • Here’s the thing: Roy’s “prediction” is something that’s actually been going on for a long time.

      Cops have been shooting malandros with impunity for many, many years.

      They know if they just write “resisting arrest” or “enfrentamiento con la autoridad” in their report, nobody’s *really* going to ask too many questions.

      Faced with the sclerotic courts, overworked prosecutors and general hassle of bringing people to trial, cops have been randomly shooting people they figure are thugs for years. Nobody worries much about the False Positives, which you can be absolutely certain are out there.

      This kind of indiscriminate violence only mainstreams shooting people as a “problem-solving mechanism” in the slums. That’s all it does. It teaches a new generation of barrio kids that picking up a gun and killing someone is part of the normal way life works. Even the cops do it, after all.

      So this kind of social prophylaxis isn’t just monstrously unjust. It’s ineffective, too.

      If it means anything at all, ending impunity must mean ending the willingness to shrug off extra-judicial killings, too.

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    • Like Quico and others, I can’t help but to react to Roy’s comment with a big, resounding WTF?!

      Roy’s “solution” to the problem is exactly what a far-right post-Chavez government might use as an excuse to witch-hunt every single chavista activist out there, regardless of whether they use violence as a political weapon or not. Common criminals, chavistas and lefties of any variety will simply be lumped together in the “undesirable” category, the social scum that needs to be “cleaned up”. All this of course properly whitewashed by War on Terror rhetoric and American military aid.

      Besides being a moral monstruosity, this would of course be totally futile as it would create a wave of hatred and radicalization in the left that would make Chavismo look like pacifist flower children.

      Scary that even people with the intellectual level to read CCS Chron. can fall for this ridiculous fallacy. Kinda makes me agree with Guido: I’d rather vote for Chavez than anyone viewing a military-led bloodbath transition as inevitable, or somehow morally justified.

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    • Way to colossally miss the point, folks.

      If we can’t speak matter-of-factly about potential scenarios, then there’s no use for planning for the future.

      The day after is key, but so is what remains of today. And today, a scenario such as the one Roy describes, is a possibility that must be taken into account when planning for tomorrow. Whether it sounds callous, cold, or anything else is immaterial. It’s a valid hypothetical, and deserves a better response than hand-wringing and pearl-clutching.

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      • Yeah, the point was missed pretty badly. We’re talking about a government that’ll be just as stubborn as Mubarak in letting go of power. While the cops, army and GN are out fighting for/against the regime, you’ll have criminality on a massive scale as criminals realize that no one is carrying out the day-to-day policing. In Egypt robberies have gone up in the last few weeks as the police gets assigned to tasks outside of traditional crime-fighting. In a country as dangerous as Venezuela armed Chavez ideologues, armed opposition ideologues, Metropolitan Police, Guardistas, paratroopers, out-of-work-n’er-do-wells and maybe a Cuban or two will all be firing at each other. It’s a worst-case scenario, I know, but our region of the world has a way of going to the worst-case-scenario as a matter of recourse.

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    • Probably they won’t. But, not going quietly is very different to Gulag, civil war or deliberate targeting of people without any semblance of due process.

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  2. is the picture from a real venezuelan prison? a pic credit would be nice or source.

    there is even a true roman circus with gladiator style fights fights in certain prisons

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    • That picture doesn’t look real to me. Everybody is so good looking, well dressed, clean, not a wrinkle in sight, nice shoes, well fed, well shaven, nice watches, nice guns.
      Was this Show your gun day?

      Also that group is so homogenous all the same age, same hair cuts, no tattos, etc.

      Contrast with other pictures:

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  3. The conditions in Venezuelan jails are shockingly deplorable and always have been.Chavez came to downgrade them even further.The only capacity that Chavez seems to have is to take existing problems and make them worse.If this were Haiti it would be more understandable but with all the oil money Chavez receives he should be able to invest enormous sums in infrastructure, including jails.Miguel always posts about all the money Chavez is receiving without showing anything for it..

    But why people are so annoyed with Roy ? I dunno.He was NOT condoning anything he was just saying what he thought could happen.I disagree with him on what will likely happen, but I see no reason for shock and annoyance.

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  4. I applaud your choice of topic, Quico but underline that you left out the main reason why we have such jails: Venezuelan laws.

    Venezuelan penal laws are reactionary. The fact that you can jail anyone for anything at any time and let the person in jail for indefinite time is a major component of the overcrowded prisons.

    I have been, over and over, and whenever possible, claiming that the key problem in Venezuela are Venezuelan laws, but nobody seems to pay any attention to that claim. Quite the opposite, the people and politicians want TOUGHER laws.

    You can build as many prison places as you wish but until there is a profound revision in Venezuelan laws to give more power to human rights, we will keep having a prison problem.

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  5. Some years ago El Universal published a letter of mine in which I wrote that since the judges were knowingly sentencing criminals, to prisons that could qualify as an Auschwitz in terms of the absolute disrespect those places show for the most basic human rights, the International Criminal Court in The Hague should start to investigate these crimes against humanity.

    Bring a judge to court and we might see some real action.

    In relative terms, most other denouncements of violations against human rights that the opposition has brought forward in foreign jurisdictions with such vigor, appears to be truly innocuous.

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  6. Guido,

    First of all I would like for you to explain to us where the straw man is in Roy’s argument is.

    Secondly, when you say:

    “It’s scary the faith of some people in the military, trusting them to be the ultimate arbiters of justice. Even more so that some people thinks it’s better a system designed to kill and repress in industrial scale (a Gulag) rather than an inefficient, bombastic, authoritarian clown than we have now. This govt is bad, but whatever comes next might be much worse.”

    If you see Chavez as a clown, I don’t think we are all that bad off, so relax and enjoy your time, after all a clown is not that threatening.And if we compare a clown to how you falsely conceive others( as wishing for a Gulag), I must say that consciously or unconsciously you must be wishing for Chavez to remain.Either that, or I go back to my original advice for you: you do not understand English well enough to make such strong comments on what others say.

    If we are more afraid that could come after Chavez might be worse (in some hypothetical future) than of what he is doing right now,we will fall into the trap that has kept all dictators in power.Fear is the biggest deterrent.Your words are full of fear.

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    • I am going to reply only this:

      It’s deeply ironic that you accuse me of not understanding English well enough when you cannot spot the gigantic straw man on Roy’s “prediction”.

      “Oh, and by the way, those of you who are shocked and outraged by this thought have not been held up, mugged, had your house robbed, been kidnapped, or had any of the above happen to your close friends and family. Virtually every person currently living in Venezuela falls into this category.”

      I have been assaulted and robbed, my relatives too, and I live in Venezuela, for better or for worse.

      As for the rest of your comment, it’s not worth a single character.

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    • What an ugly way of completely going off topic and evading the real issue here. So now it is a problem of us Spanish-speaking, irrationality-prone venezolanitos not understanding well English — The Language of Those who Express Themselves in Clear and Precise Terms… UGH!

      How can you not, oh you English Speaker, see that Roy’s statement is NOT a “prediction”?

      Please re-read :

      “As for the application of summary justice, over the last five years, Venezuela has allowed delinquency to thrive to the point which, for this class of citizen, they see it as “normal” and their “right”. This is not a genie that gets stuffed back into the bottle easily. Don´t blame your military when they are forced to do in a month or so, what the civilians failed to do over the last 12 years. Their methodology is bound to be less… judicious than a civilian system.

      Oh, and by the way, those of you who are shocked and outraged by this thought have not been held up, mugged, had your house robbed, been kidnapped, or had any of the above happen to your close friends and family. Virtually every person currently living in Venezuela falls into this category. So, yes, perhaps I just don´t care to worry so much about the rights of the bad guys until a general state of justice has been reestablished. If that shocks you, I am sorry, but I feel that way. For those living here, I don´t think my feelings on this are too far out of the mainstream.”

      Roy clearly asks us to not blame the military “for doing what civilians failed to do over the last 12 years.” He naively assumes that only assassins and terrorists would be selectively targeted by such military campaign — that it will not be used to assassin political activists who oppose the post-Chavez regime by pacific means, or for that matter, anyone who opposes the post-Chavez regime period. This shows either a tremendous ignorance of what history has taught about these processes in every corner of the world where they have taken place, or an implicit support of such policies.

      You can argue that Roy’s argument is naive and erroneous, but you can’t blame anyone not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      You ask for respect because this is an English-speaking blog?

      Well, do not expect any of that from us Spanish-speaking Venezolanitos my dear, at least until you realize that perhaps for being a foreigner living in our country you should be the one showing a bit of tact when addressing such delicate issues.

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  7. I agree with Roy.

    I see a bloody aftermath to the “change”.
    I don’t condone it but fear the divide & hatred created by Chavez leaves no other solution.
    Just listening to the loca Lina Ron this past week who clearly states what would happen after just something as simple as a lost election.

    What do you think would happen after a coup or assassination?
    Bloody hell will break loose.
    Hopefully the armed forces will have the will to control things.

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    • I do not know if anybody remembers a police force or, maybe, a special force, all dressed in black and driving motorcicles, in the late 1980’s? At that point, Ciudad Guayana, and specially, San Felix, were become very violent. They cleaned up the town. It was a very drastic measure, and I am sure that some innocents paid the price, but it was very effective.

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    • Rambos? Look up the guys who are said support the Prez. We saw them in (SOME OF US, PERSONALLY) action on April 11, 2002, and many many other times.

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  8. Guido,

    Let me explain something to you about speaking foreign languages.It is as much about learning grammar and vocabulary as it is about knowing the culture of the speaker.
    Most of us in English express ourselves clearly and precisely.We do not feel we have to clarify our thoughts with emotional expressions.In Spanish there is a culture of vagueness.Not so in English.You have to read carefully to understand the exact words someone uses, and not fall into emotional reactions when you ” intuit” that people are coming from a place that you do not like.It makes debate impossible.

    You have proven time and time again how little you understand , and your reactions are usually violent and exaggerated.

    I lived in Venezuela most of my adult life and still have trouble understanding where some people are coming from.You need to take on a more humble attitude dude.This blog is in English.

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    • Nicely put, fp.

      I’m a native Spanish speaker who spent four years teaching English to Venezuelans (maracuchos, no less!), and then relocated to the US with my American wife. Other than phone calls to my mom back in Maracaibo, I speak only English 24/7. It is a night-and-day difference in terms of the way you structure your arguments, and even the way you think them up. English may not be as flowery as Spanish, but that apparent deficiency is one of its biggest strengths.

      Just like a programmer who can accomplish certain things using C over Java, or vice versa, so do I feel that English allows a directness and clarity of expression that Spanish can’t produce quite as effortlessly. On the other hand, don’t get me started on the ambiguity of English personal pronouns and articles :p

      Add to that the fact that Venezuelan schools (at least in my day, late 80s-mid 90s) seemed determined to foster the use, abuse, and overuse of the Spanish language’s linguistic flexibility, and you end up with generations for whom saying in ten words what you can say in a hundred is “tactless”, “rude”, or “insensitive”.

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  9. I bet a couple of you boys talked to some chileno, one of those Piñeritos, consultants or whatever they claim to be, and they told you “how to do it”: start with more prissons, then bring in Israeli guards or P…ette’s buddies in lack thereof, then have a Madison firm handle the PR, then… talk to Quico, bwahaha.

    You remind me of un italianito engineer “il biondo” I met at the UCAB, the son of an Italian industrialist who would spend time reminescing about Il Duce. Il biondo was a member of the TFP and had Pinochet as his hero; he would talk like you guys talk. Most of the times he was shopping for electronic gadgets in foreign magazines or listening to strange instrumental tunes. He always looked dead serious, said he was a Catholic (I believe he was a virgin)

    Now, on a less serious tone but still true. The country where I live and which I can’t mention had the same problem with prison overcrowding, and they “solved” it by building the largest and most profitable prison system in the world, where one out of each five black men ends up sooner or later. Then THEM “whites”, the usual suspects, created, by means of records and movies, the gangsta chic, so that every sob that gets his black ass in jail will feel he’s cool and get mo’ hoes.

    In El Salvador, the program to eliminate the “maras” (pandillas) did not build enough prisons for the mareros and terrible things have happened in the last few years, such as the death of some 30 of the MS pandilleros in a fire, just weeks after they pleaded with the archbishop of San Salvador to help them be moved to a larger prison. He did write a public letter to the President, but got no response and, again, Funes is a socialist so you guys would not want any of his men as advisors. Well, I hope some of the gentlemen here won’t get the idea now that I am suggesting they get to a nearby prison with a lighter.

    However the pandillero (gang member) is not the same as the malandro. What I have said above applies to pandilleros. Venezuela has malandros, mostly poor ones.

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  10. No human being should be subjected to the things that are known to happen in Venezuelan prisons. The photo is telling, that a Venezuelan prison trumps any dystopian mid 80’s fantasy/scifi film image Hollywood cared to produce.

    However, even with great prisons, I don’t believe increasing incarceration rates per se is the answer, if incarceration is going to come from ludicrous offenses such as drug possession. The Venezuelan justice (and corrections) system has to be focused in the most urgent, shall I say? life-or-death problems faced by Venezuelans when a murderous thug is free.

    However, I expect, like Roy and others (but not desire) Venezuelan society (and economy) to collapse in the near future (as it were not already broken), unless conditions change for the better in an unexpected manner. There’s no guilt and of course no joy in stating that it can be very violent and very bloody. That it might become anarchy, civil war and maybe famine, and end in foreign intervention. Luckily, of UN peacekeepers. I have absolutely no way to tell what the military will do.

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    • That’s the key difference.
      Violent collapse does not means getting rid of all the malandros via the military, actually, that is quite unlikely, since they have experience using weapons while regular people does not. To assume that such a violent event is going to wipe the “bad people”, when our Mighty Military finally realizes the suffering of its people it’s completely delusional.

      We will die, our relatives will die and hardcore malandros will be the ones doing part of the killing, finally free in their element, because, remember that many, many times our army, our police, our GN are the malandros.

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  11. Alan Furth,

    Your arguments are so faulty and unrelated to what was actually said that it would take me an hour to discuss them all.Just a few:

    1.First of all you assume I am a foreigner living in Venezuela,not because of anything I SAID but because of what you think I said.I am a Venezuelan/American living in the US.

    2. You say :Roy clearly asks us not to blame the military “for doing what civilians failed to do over the last 12 years.”

    Roy himself clarified that to all of us what was already clear to those who speak English.He was only predicting.If he had wanted the military to react this way, more than likely he would have said” I think the military should do what civilians failed to do for the last 12 years.Maybe you do not see the difference but most native speakers will.

    3.Then you say:”He naively assumes that only assassins and terrorists would be selectively targeted by such military campaign.”

    I would like you to show us EXACTLY where he said that.

    4.The you go on saying:”You ask for respect because this is an English-speaking blog?”

    Again you use words I did not use.I never asked for respect nor do I need any.I simply stated that this is an English blog.I was reminding Guido to remember this.

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    • OK, whatever, I apologize for assuming you were a foreigner living in Venezuela.

      Now, if you apologize for using fallacious, contrived arguments about linguistics to avoid the main argument about Roy’s defense of summary justice, I promise that I’ll forgive you :b

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    • Firepigette,

      Any Venezuelan is American. Any Canadian is an American. Any Chilean is an American. And any US American is an American.

      Alan,

      Firepigette is a Venezuelan because she acquired the Venezuelan nationality as a grown-up. That means she is Venezuelan and yet her perspective is quite different.

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  12. That picture doesn’t look real to me. Everybody is so good looking, well dressed, clean, not a wrinkle in sight, nice shoes, well fed, well shaven, nice watches, nice guns.
    Was this Show your gun day?

    Also that group is so homogenous all the same age, same hair cuts, no tattos, etc.

    Contrast with other pictures:

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    • that is why they are holding the guns in the first place!, prisons are a bizarre world, almost a microcosm of venezuelan society but magnified a thousand fold, it’s like evolucion cranked up you either adjust quickly make it to the top, or follow the masses or simply die, some barely make it a few hours in before they are dead.

      if you think about it, just like our society a few live well at the expense of the misery of many, i have posted links but this stupid site (the host mind you, not CC) puts multiple hyperlinks in comment purgatory. Suffice it to say the only way to survive is by forging alliances and by power struggles everyday!

      I saw Tocuyito prison and I can categorically tell you it has become something of a Escape from NY type of living, at night there are bonfires, all the walls are gone, people mill around the roof at all hours, all guards do is control the perimeter and what goes in and out…not unlike our borders and you know that if you pay well you can bring in just about anything, from prostitutes to entire sound decks (minitecas) money and corruption is just the limit.

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  13. Kepler,

    My perspective is different because I am different.I am also different from most Americans of any kind.

    I lived in Venezuela maybe as much (almost) as you have had life,and am every bit as Venezuelan as you or the next person, but a native speaker is a native speaker.I am not a native speaker of Spanish.Even today, though people often compliment me on my relatively native sounding Spanish, I am honest enough to know my limits.In any situtation in Spanish where I find myself getting irritated by what someone else has said , I first question my understanding and then ask for a clarification.

    There are colloquialisms I don’t know, humor that alludes me, and small details of understanding that are just not in my repertoire.

    But the argument here is not about’ perspective’.It is about the misunderstanding we had because some did not understand Roy’s comment.

    As Guido and others misunderstood Roy, the original argument derailed and got side tracked.

    I hope for those who are arrogant enough to chide others for what they don’t understand, will next time ask for a clarification.

    Once people understand each other’s language then we can have a discussion based on real viewpoints.

    EA,

    Congratulations on your English.You are one of the few who could pass for a native speaker, at least in print.You must have quite a talent for’ idiomas’.

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    • Firepigette,

      My English is a disaster, but I admit it. You talk about the command of English of anyone that disagrees with you and you then praise your Spanish.
      I have read the few sentences you have written in Spanish. Give us a break.

      I understood, in spite of my English, that Roy was just “predicting” (and I said so). Still, there is more than what he very openly expressed.
      This statement
      “However, I suspect that we will emerge from the Transition without the need for as many jail cells as you calculate… unless of course it is decided to jail all those whom benefitted unjustly under the previous administration… but that is another kettle of fish all together.”
      does not mean Roy wishes a vigilante justice to take place, but it definitely is not clear enough about what he wants, in spite of previous sentences stating very mildly he “does not disagree with a reform”.

      If on top he writes this
      “I mean, let´s face it, in every neighborhood, it is no secret who are the bad guys and the military is going to have to nutralize them restore order.”
      most people get a strange feeling, whether their mother tongue is English or Chinese or Martian.

      Even if communities do tend to agree on who the worst matones de barrio are, “who the bad guys are” in general is not always clear, specially for the military or cops, who are often very bad guys themselves.

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  14. “My English is a disaster, but I admit it. ”

    No you don’t.You never admit when you don’t understand something in English.On the other hand I don’t blog in Spanish.If I do, I will be sure not to rant and rave when I don’t understand something like you and Guido do.

    Another one of your understanding English mistakes:

    “You talk about the command of English of anyone who disagrees with you and you then praise your Spanish.”

    Nobody disagreed with me.My argument began when they disagreed with Roy.

    There is a blog in Spanish.I don’t know why more folks don’t take advantage of it.

    Like

    • So Kep, Piggie:

      I’m calling a time out.

      I really am thankful for all the time and effort you’ve put into the site over the years, but I think it’s time to open up some commenting space for new people to come in and discuss.

      So, for the next week, I’m going to ask you two to only lurk.

      At the moment, the blog has become a bit like a classroom where the same two hands shoot up in the air to answer every question asked. The enthusiasm is great, but at some point it gets to the point where it sucks up all the energy in the room. It’s not a good dynamic.

      There’s a whole big internet out there. Go explore!

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  15. Well, I am glad I could add some controversy and get everyone riled up. Also, thank you Firepigette for defending me.

    Firstly I would like to say that my comments do represent what I consider a very likely scenario. The original post was about prison reform when the problems with the entire system are so grave that in order to reform it, the whole existing system will need to be re-built from ground up. Someone else (I forget who or where) said that the problem with discussing the “day after”, is that we don´t know how or when we will arrive there, or what will be left to work with when it happens.

    I happen to believe that it is useful to explore the various scenarios. At least that way, we may not get completely blind-sided. I really don´t want to see any sort of slaughter take place. However, some of my frustration with the current lack of justice did come through. I admit it. There is a corner of my heart that wants revenge for the unpunished injustices that have been commited against my freinds. One of my friends, who was robbed at gunpoint, was a mental basket case for days afterwards. The feelings of helplessness and being violated don´t just go away so easily. The victims of these heartless criminals deserve justice even though it will probably never come other than via some sort of vigilante justice. The problem with that sort is that it casts a wide net and can punish the innocent as well as the guilty.

    In any case, I will confess to some ambivalance about what I would like to see. Still, the main point of my original comment was predictive in nature. Don´t shoot the messenger, please.

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