A peek inside PGV


To my chronic frustration, we never get a proper chance to look inside Venezuelan prison walls. That’s why Ross Kemp’s Extreme World documentary on crime in Venezuela deserves such high praise.

I’m not able to embed it, but you can watch it here. (The best bit starts just after the 13:35 mark.)

Not that it’s a perfect film, by any means. Kemp clearly doesn’t know much about Venezuela, and makes a number of painful mistakes throughout the film. For one thing, he can’t seem to decide if the country is ruled by Chávez or by Shavéz. On more substantive grounds, it’s appalling – journalistically inexcusable, really – that he didn’t speak to a single opposition voice, and his willingness to seriously countenance the loony conspiracy theory about the U.S. government secretly seeding drug gangs into the barrios to undermine Chávez does not speak well for the guy’s geostrategic acuity.

None of that matters. Ross Kemp got an on-the-spot report from inside a Venezuelan jail, even managing an in-depth interview with the (sadly, not at all eloquent) pran.

Granted, the Penitenciaria General de Venezuela in San Juan de los Morros may not be Tocorón, or Uribana. Still, it’s a powerful segment. Kemp got in there and really showed it. And that right there makes up for all of the serious short-comings in his film.

Watch it.  Definitely.

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  1. Chilling, to say the least. I agree with you on his journalistic shortcomings, although the mere fact that he got this unprecedented access to a prison is enough to compensate for them. Only one thing that bothered me, at the very end, he says he doesn´t justify what kidnappers do for a living, but somehow seeks to relativize their ultimate responsibility in choosing their profession based on the fact that Venezuela affords them limited opportunities for social mobility. I´m sorry, these people are dedicated to the business of MURDER. That is just morally indefensible. PERIOD.

  2. I think you are quite right that his empirical observations were devastating, while at the same time his broader theoretical understanding was very deficient. He was INSIDE the prison, and it showed, but then he succumbed to a road show of “look at all the pretty buildings the government is giving to the people!” But what struck me most was how gutsy he was: meeting kidnapper-murderers on their own ground, when they must have been tempted to get a nice ransom for HIM.

    • The kidnapper-murderers did not need to be tempted to get a nice ranson for Ross Kemp. I’m going out on a limb here, when I assume that Kemp’s production paid for an exclusive with these murderers to the tune of $5,000 (or equivalent), which is their norm for kidnapping a victim. That would have eliminated the temptation to get a ransom for Kemp.

      If that was the case (rather than the offer of another carrot — ie., you can be the star of this show), I would like to think that an equivalent sum was paid to the police force, maybe even the hospital — services that do a public good instead of evil.

      I’d hate to think that monies were paid to the Free Carlos the Jackal Fund, in order to gain an exclusive with his brother, whose pro-Chávez comments went uncontested — unforgivable for Kemp’s claim as an investigative journalist, evidently a pseudo.

      Outside a few holes in the script/direction, which showed a lack of impartiality, it’s a brilliant production, well filmed and well edited. Outstanding, really. It does not make the government look good, especially that moron from *military intelligence* who comes into the hospital to film the procedures with his little i-phone, while attempting to stop Kemp from filming. The moron gets bamboozled by Ross Kemp’s logic: “If you cannot show other people’s pain, how can you explain to other people the pain that they go through?” The moron and his team decide to leave, having earlier been concerned that Kemp and Co. were going to show Chávez and his administration in a poor light. As Kemp’s voice-over says, “It seems that the harsh reality of living in this country is something the government does not want to be revealed.”

      • I have no doubt they were paid nicely for the interview. But it would have been a juicy kidnap, too, possibly involving the host, the camera people, and likely others, too. It comes down to how much you trust these guys; I would be fearful in his shoes.

        • As they said on the video they only care for the money, those kids don’t do proper kidnappings as in the ones they can keep a victim locked for months, these are “express” kidnaps that could last up until 3 days. If the relatives contact the police the victim is killed. The production crew must have paid these guys over 5k dollars for the interview.

    • his broader theoretical understanding was very deficient. ……but then he succumbed to a road show of “look at all the pretty buildings the government is giving to the people!

      Given the vast increase in the housing deficit under Chavismo, your point is spot-on. Not to mention the recent articles on the new construction with the collapsed foundations.

  3. None of that matters?

    Oh, but it does matter.

    Chavez has received a great deal of open and hidden support from outside the country due to the attitudes plainly shown in the video.The interview with the Jackal was unforgivable.

    And then we wonder why Chavez remains despite all.

    Naivety dear, Naivety.

    • I don’t understand how some of you believe the government is shown favourably on that report, the message I got from the video was that a government that calls itself “for the people” is incapable of offering security and basic human rights to its population. Whatever the government tool said at the end doesn’t eliminate the other sections, and anyone who believes the colombian infiltrates conspiracy theory is an idiot.

    • The guy interviewed is the BROTHER of the Jackal, you might as well get your listening in order or at least if you comment about do it properly.

      • Yeah I keep making that mistake.It is the brother of the Jackal.

        The reason this video is so harmful is that it is subtle in its support of why Chavismo’s message is good, the US is bad, and responsibility does not always lie in Chavez’s hands.
        The criminals are not to blame? They have no choice? Because of their poverty?

        And Chavez has helped the poor? Please!!! He has not.

        The problem in Venezuela is a blatant lack of Justice….and where is this mentioned?

        This video does not condemn Chavez.It condemns the have and the have nots,and the difference between rich and poor which is Chavez’s message.

        He does say that crime increased under Chavez however he doesn’t reconcile that with the fact that poverty has improved under Chavez.

        hmmmmm give me a break

        • I think he did a great job and not turned the whole report into a “Chavez is responsible” media propaganda. Any sane person will still reach that conclusion but you seem to want it served by spoon.

          To hear a well-spoken Chávez bureaucrat talk about colombian infiltrates causing havok due to a US operation makes everything more ridiculous. I mean, they’ve been in completely power for over 14 years and yet the opposition/US can pull such an operation? give me a break. And then they show some residential buildings and a barrio adentro module FROM INSIDE A CAR.

          Seriously, what you get from all this should be the sheer incompetence of the revolution regarding human rights and public safety. But in any balanced report you have to hear both parties and I think Ross Kemp did a good job.

          The responses from the government at the end are even more laughable.

          • I don’t think we need balanced( meaning in the middle) reports.We need the naked truth.A balanced report is for ninis , not for the opposition.

        • “…poverty has improved under Chavez.”

          What’s that all about, firepigette? It doesn’t make much sense. And you were a teacher?

          Here’s why I think it’s time you lay off the obsession sauce. Your off-the-cuff remarks in more than a dozen comments, in all 3 blogs that have posted the Ross Kemp video, repeatedly try to inform us of our naivety, as opposed to your superior interpretation. It’s doubly hard to take you seriously when it took several of us to inform you that your pig-headedness over Carlos the Jackal was wrong.

          Take a deep breath and move on.

          In spite of your *1,000 family members, mostly living in barrios*, your vague generalities, and your accusation that Venezuelans are naÏve (in comparison to you, the all-knowing), you do not have inside track information. May I suggest using instead, phrases like, I think, or perhaps — anything that would indicate just a wee bit of humility? The alternative is galling, when compounded with errors.

  4. Thank you for posting this. As everybody has mentioned, I agree this video’s strengths overcome its weaknesses. The whole panorama is horrifying. One thing I like a lot about the video is that it shows quite clearly that violence and crime particularly affect the poorest sectors of Venezuelan society – not just in terms of being target of murder rates, but also the whole social dynamic that develops around criminals. I get the feeling that a lot of people outside of Venezuela think that crime in Venezuela is a sort of Robin Hood type of scenario which is a very sad misconception that just seems to enable Chavez’s international popularity.

  5. Quico:
    his willingness to seriously countenance the loony conspiracy theory about the U.S. government secretly seeding drug gangs into the barrios to undermine Chávez does not speak well for the guy’s geostrategic accuity,

    No, it does not speak well for his geostrategic acuity. Years ago on some non-Venezuela-based blog, I pointed out the vast increase in Venezuela’s murder rate during the Chavez years. The reply came back that the increased murder rate reflected Chavismo putting down CIA-induced rebellions in the barrios.

    • In spite of that. If the murder rate comes from within or without, it is a testament of the government inabilities to protect its citizen. If there actually are foreign agents doing that, it is even worse. The government not only lacks the ability to protect its citizens, but it also fails to protect our sovereignty.

    • My guess is that, in order of importance to his ability to get the money shots from inside the jail and with the kidnappers, it went:

      2-Willingness to take insane risks
      5-A tough, experienced producer with the time and resources to spend months lining up the key shots.
      6- and a top-notch security detail
      7-(maybe) Money

      • Ross Kemp’s pappy was/is Detective Chief Inspector in the British police force. So it’s safe to assume that Ross grew up learning, second-hand, about the ins and outs of the underworld. Plus, Pappy’s formidable network in British officialdom probably helped Ross to strategically plan this video for the best sources of information, and how to get them.

    • Journalism in Venezuela is massively self-censored, this Ross Kemp show goes to crazy places all around the world so they know how to get into difficult places. The difference is they shoot and leave the country while local journalists have to stay and deal with consequences.

    • Extreme World so far:

      Season 1:
      Democratic Republic of the Congo

      Season 2:

      Next shows seem to be Glasgow and New Orleans.

    • Pablo – I don’t think he asked for the governement’s permission. He went directly to the sources. The proof is that the “governement intelligence” showed up in the hospital after he had been already there. Obviously somebody called from within.
      To get into the jail you just have to brive the guards outside, that are not shown at all, and of course, pay a fee to have an interview with the pran.

      • So in the end the guy knows how to get the sources and has the money to bribe. Also ErneX point is spot on. He would be in jail like the judge and the police officers.
        A rough calculation. When he interviews the kidnappers, how many people were his crew 4 -5ish? So this people get around 5000$ per kidnap, so he paid around 25000$ to interview then. Nevertheless knowing a little how this dissociated people think. I bet they were proud to be the band interview and bragged to rival bands about it, so maybe they gave him an special price…

        • You don’t need 4 or 5 people on this shoot.
          I’ve been on small, documentary-style shoots; 2 people plus the interviewer is more than enough. You just need a cameraman/director of photography and a sound guy. Direction can be handled by both the interviewer and the cameraman. It’s easier to do this as a run-and-gun kinda thing and then figure it out in the editing room, than roaming around a hospital or a barrio with 4 or 5 people who add nothing to the mix.

      • That was one of the most obnoxious parts of the movie for me. If you read ‘The Dictator’s Learning Curve’ you also read about how SEBIN follows other foreign authors. They were probably tipped off by some ‘oreja’ and then show up to basically try to badly cover up what’s plain as day. They remind me of Manuel Noriega’s ‘sapos’, little squat men who came round to threaten any foreign journalists in the vicinity.

  6. Yes, it is poor journalism. Yes, it is poorly researched. No, it doesn’t display any nuance with regards to the politics. But, I am not sure it claims any of those things.

    It is sort of like watching the unedited video footage of a disaster in progress. By not providing much in the way of context, it makes the piece even more powerful, because the content speaks for itself.

  7. When I said that poverty has improved in Venezuela I was referring to what the video claims ,and then they claim crime is cause by poverty.To not see the contradiction here is not naive , it is blind.If according to them Chavez helped the poor, then with their logic crime should have gone down.

    But yes,the 2 worse traits I see in Venezuelans are Naivety, and a total lack of the sense of Justice which have led to the deplorable state of Venezuela today.

    The Naivety and poor understanding of Justice continue as badly today as it was in the 60’s when I first became acquainted with it.

    • provide the time in the video where it says that poverty has improved in Venezuela.

      Sources, FP. I know it’s not your strong suit. But it’s critical for credibility.

      Are US citizens less naïve than Venezuelans, after that banking and mortgage-backed securities fiasco that left the American economy choking?

      Are you naïve for having stayed in Venezuela for as long as you did?

      Poor understanding of Justice? Sure, if Venezuela had a mature democracy, and a well-developed education for all, up to and including high school, at least, I’d agree with you.

      The naïve one is you for not understanding that Venezuela’s problems go much deeper than where your rants try to be superior and condescending.

      • 28:30 is where the guy being interviewed says they closed the poverty gap. Minutes later he goes “conspiracy theories abound” about the opposition then the guy being interviewed (Carlos the Jackal’s brother) laughably says a conspiracy theory about the opposition! It’s classic editing and it’s genius. Ross Kemp goes on to say at 31:20 that “often funds never reach those who need it.”

        Ross Kemp is simply not being sympathetic despite what firepigette is saying. This report is extremely damning. “It’s very much about one man isn’t it?” “Yes!” He says “wealth taking from the rich and given to the poor,” then follows it the fact that the wealth gap remains, showing images of the barrios and kidnappings.

        The video then ends with an indictment of the “revolution.” “These people are very poor, there is no social services to help them.” “There is so much wealth here, so much money, and you still got people who are starving. Fighting to survive, kidnapping to survive.”

        “Looking back I’m shocked at the state that this country is in.” (condescends) “For a socialist country with so much wealth there is still so much inequality here.”

        I can’t get my head around what video firepigette is talking about. The interview with the Jackel’s brother is a joke, it shows what a pathetic caricature that Chavismo is of itself. Yes, the opposition didn’t get to get on film. But I guarantee you if he tried to get the opposition’s take then the government would’ve taken his equipment and he may have even wound up in jail. It’s not necessary to get the oppositions opinion simply because anyone with sense would know that, uh, the opposition would see that as a problem.

  8. I think had he got the oppositions take (if he was able to even get it), it would not have had the effect it had. Here we have Carlos the Jackel’s brother being interviewed and clearly he looks like he’s talking out of his ass. Who cares about what the opposition thinks when that guy being interviewed already made an ass of himself and basically failed to get to the meat of the violence problem? He really did make a fool of himself and the revolution. Had the opposition been contacted (again, even if that was possible) the effect would’ve been less. People would’ve seen it as if “no wonder nothing can get done, both sides are blaming the other!” Instead we have one side blaming the other and the results are plain as day. It makes an outside observer go “maybe the opposition isn’t so bad after all.”

  9. The shtick is that, outside of Venezuela, it is taboo to shed any negative light on Chavez. Ross Kemp, if he wants to keep his mainstream audience, must allow them to keep loving Chavez while still being smugly horrified at the country’s situation.

    You dream of a first world country with a democrat leader, they dream of a wild land with ideological primitives.

  10. Wow. After watching that video I am amazed I went to Venezuela and loved. I was in Caracas for a week in June, Margarita Island for 4 days and Merida for 3 weeks in June. As in American I did not think it was that bad. Maybe I was lucky.

  11. You would be surprised by the fact that Kemp gained access to all these places thanks to smart people in Venezuela that he did not need to pay but that have been conducting serious research and documentaries in the prisons and also on gangs during the last decade. The problem is that these people do not want to be identified (and therefore fail to appear in credits) and also believe that serious research in Venezuela on this topic is lacking. I am impressed and apalled by the documentary. It´s depressing but it portrays a reality that needs to be addressed.


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