In an apparent protest of Venezuela’s shoddy prison conditions and drawn-out judicial processes, at least 950 people have occupied a northern prison where their relatives are being held, demanding that the government provide them with a faster trial.

In a press conference yesterday, Iris Varela, head of the country’s recently-created Ministry of Correctional Services, told local press that the individuals invaded the Yare I and II prison complex, located 40 miles southwest of Caracas, over the previous weekend. According to the minister, the group is comprised of "800 women, wives and mothers of the inmates, 150 children and teenagers, and five men.”

Varela claims that the group is remaining in the Yare prison of its own will, as part of an attempt to speed the judicial processes against those being held there. The director of prison rights group A Window to Liberty has contradicted this, saying that only some of the relatives are there voluntarily, and that the rest are being held hostage.

Officials are negotiating with the relatives over the situation, and Varela has pledged to resolve the conflict peacefully.

InSight Crime Analysis

This is far from the first prison standoff that Venezuela has seen in recent months.

On July 13, a 27-day confrontation between armed inmates and security forces at the El Rodeo prison just east of Caracas finally came to an end after 25 people were killed. In October, inmates at another prison in the north of the country took 60 hostages in order to pressure authorities into transferring a powerful crime boss to another facility. These incidents are fairly common in the country’s prisons, which are largely understaffed. As such, they are almost exclusively controlled at least in part by prison gangs, who frequently clash with their guards.

On top of this, Venezuelan prisons are notoriously overcrowded. According to official figures, Venezuelan prison facilities are meant to hold only 14,000 inmates, despite the fact that they currently hold 50,000.

The Chavez administration has vowed to improve prison conditions, even suspending imprisonment temporarily in August. Still, progress is slow, as these incidents illustrate.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.