A new kind of draft

Recluta… there’s a word that brings memories. (In most, if not all cases, not happy ones). For a country that’s gone over 150 years without a proper shootin’ war, the need for a military draft is a little hard to understand, and yet we’ve had one for as long as anyone can remember. My dad…

The Battle of Sabaneta Prison Ends (Updated)

In the end, there was no final battle between Sabaneta Prison pran-in-chief “El Mocho Edwin” and State forces. Instead, all the remaining inmates were moved out over the weekend. “El Mocho” backed down on his earlier promise to stay inside Sabaneta no matter what. He was transferred in an armored vehicle to a military aircraft,…

The Battle of Sabaneta Prison, cont.

Sabaneta Prison remains tense, even after a large number of inmates have been transferred to other prisons. Yesterday, the major pran of Sabaneta, “El Mocho Edwin”, made an appereance on the prison’s rooftop, asking for dialogue. Hours earlier, a member of the Prisons Ministry was “allowed” in to Sabaneta to negotiate directly with the pran himself.…

The Battle of Sabaneta Prison

For the second time in a month, a serious spasm of violence convulsed Sabaneta Prison in Maracaibo. The toll this time: 16 people dead. At the center of the violence is a major pran (prison gang boss) who’s known as “El Mocho Edwin”, who took uncontested power of the prison recently. In a garish Syrian twist,…

The government’s ombudsman

One of the new state institutions created in the 1999 Constitution was the figure of the People’s Ombudsman, in charge of defending citizens’ rights against the state. Fourteen years after its creation, the role of the Ombudsman has diverted significantly from its constitutional duties. It has simply become (just like the rest of the State’s…

Bronze medal in prison overcrowding

The Economist posted this chart today about prison overcrowding around the world. Only Haiti and the Philippines have a higher rate of overcrowding than Venezuela. Also, the country’s data sheet from the International Centre for Prison Studies indicate that the total number of inmates in our penitenciary system doubled between 2008 and 2012. The consequences of…

Double standard

Days after the April 14th election, this video of Housing Minister Ricardo Molina threating to fire any employee who dares to “speak ill of the Revolution” or is in any way involved with an opposition political party went public after it was published online. Three months later, the person who made it public it has…

They came, they saw, they squatted

Organized squatter groups have become “normal” in the last few years. From the rural areas to the largest cities, they take what they consider to be idle lands or unoccupied infrastructures, based on their constitutional rights to work the land or to have proper housing. One NGO that represents urban land owners have calculated that…

The hell down the street

Last December, Prisons Minister Iris Varela announced the future closing of Sabaneta Prison in Maracaibo. A new jail (currently under construction) outside the city would be its replacement. Everything was going according to plan, until a few days ago. Now, things have changed. The residents of the area where the new prison is being built…

CNP: Chávez was no journalist

In a written statement, the National Guild of Journalists (known here as the Colegio Nacional de Periodistas or CNP) has strongly rejected yesterday’s decision of giving the 2013 National Journalism Award to the late Hugo Chávez. They justified their rejection in part because of Chávez’s record regarding free speech: “We reject that the 2013 Simón…

Workplace bullying as public policy

In the last few days, mutiple press reports indicate that some public sector workers have been fired and others have suffered harassment because of their political stance after the presidential election. Audio clips of several heads of public bodies (like the Zulia Sports Director or the Director of Bolipuertos in Puerto Cabello) have been leaked…

Jail House Night-Club, cont.

Looks like the El Rodeo I’s month-old nightclub won’t the only one up and running in the Venezuelan prison system. According to El Nacional’s crime reporter Thabata Molina, this Good Thrusday will be the brand new opening of a night-club in San Antonio Prison (Margarita Island). For those looking to party but not cozy with…

Assad and Maduro, still BFFs

In its last meeting, the UN Human Rights Council voted to extend the probe of the ongoing Syrian civil war until next year. The resolution was approved by 41 votes to 1, with five countries abstaining: Ecuador, India, Kazakhstan, Philippines and Uganda. The only vote against continuing the HRC’s investigation (led by Brazilian diplomat Paulo…

Jail House Night-Club

Remember that nightclub in Tocorón Prison from last year? Well, it now has serious competition from a brand new place inside El Rodeo I in Guatire, just outside Caracas. It opened last month with a huge party including giant screens, a smoke machine, state-of the-art speakers and strippers. The pranes even have their own V.I.P. balcony.…