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,…

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…

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…

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…

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.…

Excess baggage

Just when you think you have heard everything about the Venezuelan prison system, Ultimas Noticias nos trae esta perlita… A young woman was leaving Yare II Prison last Sunday afternoon after finishing her visit and she was carrying a heavy suitcase. When a National Guard soldier tried to help her, he found out that a…

Heckuvajob, Iris!

Prisons Minister Iris Varela admitted in an interview with Últimas Noticias that their staff have access to only seven of the thirty prisons active in Venezuela today. She also blamed last month’s events in Uribana to possible score-setting between “negative leaders” (pranes). So, what was the point then of having a dozen military tanks outside…

Bellum pranes contra omnes

Sometimes the power of the pranes, the defacto rulers of Venezuelan prisons, is not confined to the walls of the jails. They want to impose their will outside and they’re not afraid of using violence to prove it. One businessman in Maracaibo found out this week after he refused to pay money to the pranes…

The PGV is just one small glimpse of hell

The Guardian’s Virginia Lopez offers a inside look into the General Penitentiary of Venezuela (the PGV), located in Guárico State. While she’s not the first journalist to go inside this prison, she offers a hair-raising report. The PGV is dubbed “the Beverly Hills of Venezuelan prisons”, but that doesn’t change the fact that behind its…

Games people play

When the final chapter in chavismo is written (and I’m one of the few that think this will happen sooner than most think) one of its most glaring mistakes will be how they sacrificed governance for politics. We elect governments, in part, because of politics, because of the game they bring to the ring. Many…

A hard day at Uribana (Updated)

Today, personnel of the Prisons Ministry along with soldiers of the National Guard tried to inspect Uribana Prison (located outside Barquisimeto) for illegal materials. The procedure was supposed to be low-profile in nature. But a local journalist found out, thanks to the very not-so-subtle presence outside of at least ten military light tanks. There was…