CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The number of inmates killed in Venezuela's notoriously violent prisons soared to 560 last year, a watchdog group said Thursday.
The nonprofit Venezuelan Prisons Observatory said that was a 17.6 percent increase over 2010.
Venezuela's severely crowded prisons see repeated violent outbursts as rival gangs fight for control of cellblocks and sell weapons and drugs with the help of corrupt prison guards.
In statistics released Thursday, the group added that 1,457 inmates were injured during protest riots, gang-related violence and clashes with prison guards in 2011.
The Justice Ministry does not release official statistics regarding the annual number of deaths in prisons.
The government says Venezuela has more than 44,000 inmates in its 34 prisons. The prisons were built to hold about 12,500 inmates, according to Venezuelan Prisons Observatory.
President Hugo Chavez promised last year to fix the South American nation's corrupt and violent penitentiary system, swearing in congresswoman Iris Varela as minister for penitentiary affairs.
Chavez expressed optimism that Varela, who is also a lawyer and high-ranking governing party member, would help root out widespread graft and curb violence in some of Latin America's most violent prisons.
The president created the new Cabinet post shortly after inmates led an armed, weeks long uprising that caused seven deaths at the Rodeo I prison and adjacent Rodeo II lockup. Negotiations permitted a peaceful end to the 27-day uprising, which pitted rebellious prisoners against hundreds of National Guard soldiers sent to regain control of the prisons.
Human rights activists have strongly criticized authorities, including Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami, for failing to crack down on rampant corruption among National Guard troops who take bribes to let inmates obtain drugs, alcohol and weapons.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
from the AP
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Sunday, January 8, 2012
CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has tapped a leading general accused by the United States of being a drug "kingpin" to be the country's new defense minister.
Gen. Henry Rangel Silva will replace Carlos Mata Figueroa, according to the state-run AVN news agency. Chavez, who called Rangel a "good soldier," made the announcement Friday in the central city of Guanare, the agency reported.
The United States added Rangel to its kingpin list in 2008 for allegedly providing support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as the FARC.
A statement from the Treasury Department then said that the general "materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC," and pushed for more cooperation between the Venezuelan government and the leftist rebels.
Since 2003, the U.S. government has considered the FARC a "significant foreign narcotics trafficker."
The action froze whatever assets Rangel may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibited citizens from doing business with him.
He is not the only Venezuelan official designated by the United States as a drug kingpin.
In September, the Treasury Department added lawmaker Freddy Bernal -- a Chavez loyalist -- and three other officials to the list.
All were accused of allegedly providing support to the FARC, which has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s. While severely weakened in recent years, the guerrilla group continues to carry out kidnappings and attack security forces.
Monday, January 2, 2012
from Noticias 24
The evolutionary course of Hugo Chavez's cancer will be one of the hallmarks resonating in the communications media in 2012, not only locally but throughout the region. Or so signalled an article published at web impre.com
Venezuela enters a period of transition in which the health of the First Commander will be the determining facto, given the weight of his will to get re-elected will serve as a factor when he presents himself as a candidate for re-election this coming October and in which the opposition must downselect to a single opponent.
"It will be a central point on the theme of caudillo-ism, if there really is a strong detriment that politically incapacitates him, should he collapse or become unable to respond politically to his duties in office," was the expert opinion of a professor in Latin American Affairs at Javeriana University, Benjamin Herrera, who explained that there is no successor inside the Chavista camp on the horizon who can unite its' adherents.
It proves that the ambient political climate will continue to boil because additionally the opposition will realize for the first time since Chavez came to power, primary elections with an opportunity to confront Chavism at the polls and for dividing the opposition and defining a clear alternative pathway north.
The future of Chavez will be felt regionally and will have special repercussions on the countries of Central America like Nicaragua who receive assistance thanks to the high prices commanded by petroleum, which will prove to be another electoral protagonist.
"One of the things that favours Chavez is the rising price of crude oil which permits him a latitude of action in an epoch of increasing expenses to maintain his position in poorer regional sectors and buy support for certain foreign revolutionary friends," opined Herrera.
Regardless, the prices for crude will depend upon the behaviour of China, which isn't expanding at the same rate as previous years and a world economy which is experiencing political difficulties, and with them, the prices of petroleum.
They are currently offering $100 a barrel, but with a crises in India, the US or Europe, the price could fall," explained professor of Economic Observations Luis Eduardo Amador of the External University of Columbia.