Uribana is closed, but the crisis isn't over

The red bus was not available
The red bus was not available

After officially acknowledging the death of 58 people in the violent events of January 25th, Prisons Minister Iris Varela ordered the transfer of Uribana Prison’s remaining inmates to other jails.

Most of them are now ensconced in Yaracuy State Prison next door, where the overall conditions aren’t any better.

There’s no hint about the long term future of what once was called the “model prison for the transformation of Venezuela’s penitentiary system”. It was built during the second Caldera administration and then opened by the first Justice Minister of the Chávez era, Ignacio Arcaya.

Uribana was planned to hold 891 inmates tops. But Varela admitted in a press conference that the last count of inmates (before the events) was 2,459, almost three times more. The majority of those inmates have not been sentenced, but are facing trial or waiting for one. The Prisons Ministry (in charge now of taking them to court) constantly fails to move the process along, causing most of the trials to be delayed.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly created a special commission to investigate what happened, but no opposition deputies were invited. It looks more like a rubber-stamping mission than a fact-finding one. There’s has been criticism of Varela’s “handling” of the crisis, which is the same plan she has applied before: shut down the troubled prison, move the inmates to other jails, and wait for the whole thing to blow over.

Sadly, the problem doesn’t go away. It just goes somewhere else: in this case, Tocuyito.