Prison riots in Venezuela speaks volumes about corruption and mismanagement under Hugo Chávez
by Joel Hirst for InterAmerican Security Watch, June 20th, 2011.
Fyodor Dostoevsky is said to have observed, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” If this is true, the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez’s “Pretty Revolution” is truly in a sorry state. A series of prison riots in recent days – which incompetent cronies have struggled to contain by indiscriminate violence – speaks volumes about the brutish state of Venezuela under Hugo Chávez.
These ferocious riots should come as no surprise. Last year, 467 people were killed and 967 injured in Venezuela’s prison system. Its 30 tattered jails, crumbling and pockmarked with bullet holes, were designed to hold 12,500 people: yet are currently home to roughly 49,000.
Not only is overcrowding an issue, but prisoners live at the mercy of their corrupt jailers. Family members are forced to pay bribes to the guards for food and medical care, and better treatment and facilities are available to the highest bidder. The gangs that control the Venezuelan jails frequently face off against each other, and the carnage that ensues is too much to even show on TV or newspapers.
Chavez’s revolutionary government has decried this fecklessly, blaming the problem on previous governments and committing to a process of “humanizing” the prisons. After 12 years and thousands of dead, the government is guilty of hypocrisy, incompetence, or a little of both. The prisoners and their families have no confidence in the regime, resorting to weekly hunger strikes each Sunday – visiting day for family members – and occasionally taking their own family members hostage and threatening them in a desperate attempt to get improved conditions. (continue reading… )