"I knew they had guns, I didn't know they had Uzis…"


Prison reform is one of those inherently unpopular issues: anger over crime runs so deep that people, by and large, don’t want to hear about it. Which is why Voluntad Popular deserves special props for taking a strong stance in favor of improving the plain-old-inhuman conditions in Venezuelan jails.

Sorting out this mess not an issue that’s going to win them any votes…which is pretty much the definition of why it takes political courage to bring it up. Good on them.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. Government officials should be held accountable under criminal negligence laws, immediately upon the death of any inmate, since it is under their power to stop this, and they don’t out of utter negligence.

  2. His cell mate had a gun! How in fuck’s name an inmate can manage to have a gun?

    “De dos disparos asesinaron a Eduardo Jesús Monteverde, de 32 años de edad. El sujeto se encontraba detenido desde hace seis meses en el calabozo B de la comisaría de Guaiparo. Ayer cuando los oficiales procedieron a pasar lista encontraron el cuerpo.”

  3. Shocking story and a powerful video made to be competely believable. Bear this in mind … David was a drug smuggler and probably a user. I always have doubts about the testimony of drug addicts as they tend to lie to either harvest sympathy or minmize their crimes. In any case, this is obviously a dranatization.

    This is the focus of the video as far as I am concerned rather than prison conditions in Venezuela which are unspeakable…..as we all have known for decades.

    • “as we all have known for decades” Yet, inexcusable for this past single decade, given the at least 50 times more development money that chavez has had available to improve, let alone prevent deterioration of, the situtation.

    • ..For decades..but I thought Chavez was the revolution. He was going to change things…if not, what’s revolutionary about his government?.

      The fact that it was bad before doesn’t justify the current situation….

    • Arturo, I know you are go ing to disappear now, AGAIN.
      What was the murder rate of Venezuela in 1998 according to official figures?

      What is the murder rate now even if you just believe what the regime said some weeks ago and you divide that murder total by the population and do some cross-multiplication (yeah, really basic school leve)?

      Think hard.
      Oh, oh, oh oh, Arturo is gone again. He will troll again with the same crap on another post: “You all know Venezuela has always had this problem and people get killed in Norway and Sweden all the time, not to mention Chicago and Ciudad Juarez”

    • My dear tool, Arturo:

      “Matan a otro reo en calabozos de Guaiparo
      miércoles, 06 de abril de 2011
      No habían pasado 24 horas desde el hallazgo del cadáver de Eduardo Jesús Monteverde Rojas, de 32 años de edad, cuando los representantes del área de régimen de la comisaría Nº 2 de Guaiparo de la Policía del estado Bolívar (PEB), localizaron el cuerpo sin vida de María de Jesús Gil Rojas, alias “el Chuo”.

  4. No Arturito, conditions have never been this bad. Just the sheer numbers are quadruple what they were when your hero got to power, so …asume tu peo, pana, it has been twelve years of everything getting worse, it is no longer justified to blame el Gobierno anterior. For decades, does not work here anymore, you are defending a “revolution”, according to you and your comrades. Have you joined the militia yet?

  5. Actually, Quico, I dispute your basic premise. Venezuelans think their criminal justice system is rotten top to bottom. They know it can take years of jail time before a trial. They know that trial may not be fair. The mistrust of police is part of this, too. So reforming prisons, improving conditions, speeding up time-to-trial — these are issues that have broad support.

    Prisoners may not be central to voter concerns…but Voluntad Popular is hardly out on a limb.

  6. Great video. Small world story. I was working in Paris when I met Julie while she was working in Paris as a musician (Julie the girlfriend in this video). Later I moved to Venezuela in 2000. I eventually left Venezuela for China and Korea but returned in 2005/6 and lived in the Marriott in Chacau for a couple of months while trying to find an apartment in Chacau (we arrived beginning December and the landlords were all gone on holiday for 6 weeks). We used to walk across the street to the Juan Sebastion bar for a drink on occasion. This guy was playing with a jazz band there and this was when he was busted. I didn’t know him but when I first saw the video I recognized Julie immediately and realized we were in Venezuela when he got busted. It’s kind of 6 degrees of separation feeling.

    I am not sympathetic to anyone that gets busted doing something illegal in a foreign country. I reserve my sympathy for politic prisoners.

    • Well, I am sympathetic to any person being in a jail like this if they have not assaulted or killed anybody. Hell, I am sympathetic even to them. That kind of jail only makes them worse when they are out.

    • “I am not sympathetic to anyone that gets busted doing something illegal in a foreign country. I reserve my sympathy for politic prisoners.”

      “Cuddy had only been a guard for a few days, but already he had absorbed one important and basic fact: it is almost impossible for anyone to be in a street without breaking the law.”
      – (Terry Pratchett, Men At Arms)

      More so in a foreign country than in yours, more so as laws accumulate…

      Most political prisoners are formally indicted for, guess what? breaking some law… and guess what else… they are usually guilty as charged according to the letter of law, given a convenient piece of legislation.

      It’s just a matter of choosing. By law enforcement. Of giving some “offense” jail time in the same order of magnitude as murder. Like trading in controlled substances. Eight years… in hell? with a bunch that makes serial killers look tame? Misdemeanor becomes administrative offense, becomes crime, becomes capital crime.

      What’s wrong with the nice picture?

      Rights. Rights being violated by the very law or it’s enforcement practices. Rights of other individuals, or their safety NOT being infringed/endangered by the “criminal”. Usually when they are infringed, you can speak of “crime”. Rights. Right not to be picked upon or unduly searched. Right to a proportional punishment.

  7. I would reserve prison for violent crime. There is however, a small subset of criminals that, as a consequence of their crimes, and for public safety, do not deserve to be let back into civil society, ever. But prison in a civilized society should not impose upon inmates the violations of human dignity it is there to punish or prevent. Else execute the inmates already and be done, with such a mindset.

    Fortunately, Quico, you are wrong about people in Venezuela having such a mindset. The general knowledge is that prison is hell, that a man is innocent until proven otherwise, and that a lot of people are in hell without being sentenced, or for nonviolent crimes. They know the criminal system is quite rotten. They want it to work, so the violent criminals are convicted and the innocent are released. The most extreme, talking off their mouth, want violent criminals executed. But they do not want to impose hell to even the worst of them, and they do not want hell imposed upon them or their relatives by mistake, for comparatively lesser offenses, or because of delays.

    On the contrary, a successful reform of the justice and police system, or at least a rational use of a somewhat more efficient justice system to insure public safety would ensure re-election for the party pulling it off and eternal gratitude from all sectors of the population for the officials responsible. It would also send an important message about the kind of country (civilized and respectful of life) that is the future project of such a party.

    • In fact, the biggest liability in Voluntad Popular and other parties’ projects is actually making the public believe that they have the will, the persuasion, and the courage to be able to begin to perform the miracle of a working judicial system.

      Not that the public does not want it. It’s a dream! Only they put it along First-World levels of corruption and obtrusive bureaucracy.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here