The 1933 Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States defines a “state” as a space that possess a permanent population, a defined territory and a government that is capable of maintaining effective control over the corresponding territory and of conducting International relations with other states.

By that standard, Guárico’s Penitenciaria General de Venezuela (PGV) is not only a State, it’s a rogue nation that gets Venezuelan government and armed forces to do its bidding.

Its presiding tyrant, El Ratón, is a pran who, after having served his sentence last year, freely moves about the country in an ongoing spree of kidnappings, extortion and drug dealing. Whenever he wants to hide out or get some R&R, he and his Vargas criminal gang comes back to PGV.

There is not a single prison guard inside PGV. Ratón and his aides (luceros, in jailspeak) run the show entirely on their own.

El Ratón owns several businesses within PGV: a pizza joint, a burger shack, a supermarket, a chinese restaurant. He decides who lives and who dies in PGV, who stays and who goes. His absolute control goes beyond the confines of his infamously violent prison. The mouse hijacks government food trucks, assigns recipients their CLAP bags, and sells off government assistance products from his grocery shop to locals.

Last week, El Ratón realized he faced a fiscal deficit. His population of 137 inmates has been dwindling ever since the Prison Ministry began feeble attempts to strip away PGV’s power base last year. PGV’s fiscal base is heavily reliant on la causa, a weekly Bs.2500 fee that inmates must pay if they want to “belong to the system” and enjoy its benefits, which range from having a TV and access to CLAP booty to….continuing to breathe on a regular basis.

Showing more fiscal sense than his counterparts at Carmelitas, El Ratón decided to balance the budget. Last Monday, he took 50 PGV workers hostage: nurses, educators, grounds and administrative staff. His demands? That 4,000 inmates be transferred from other prisons all around Venezuela to PGV.

El Ratón’s mass hostage taking was accompanied by an almighty firefight with the authorities:

He specifically asked for lowly inmates – that is, petty criminals that have yet to profess loyalty to any one, that have not begun to work their way up the prison system ladder of prestige and infamy. His first draft pick were fresh detainees in police custody awaiting trial all around the country.

Now, here’s the shocking bit: the government agreed.

A massive government operation was undertaken in response, all for the sake of Ratón’s GDP. All across the nation, white buses supplied by the Ministry of Prisons crisscrossed our highways to bring in a fresh supply of inmates. Thousands of prisoners were brought into Guárico. PVG’s perimeter was militarized: tanks and checkpoints were deployed – for the purposes of facilitating the transfer operation. Hundreds of armed National Guard officials stood about in riot gear, under the searing hot sun of the Venezuelan Llanos – to keep away the throngs of desperate families anxious for information of their loved ones’ whereabouts.

For several days, the deceptively colorful gate at the
26 de Julio prison open and closed as buses came and left. 26 de Julio is Prisons Minister Iris Varela’s model jail unveiled last year as a PR stunt, directly next door to PGV, but is not Ratón-controlled. Throughout the operation, 26 de Julio was used as a transfer station of sorts: incoming prisoners were asked if they wanted to be sent to PGV. Most prisoners happily agreed.

For aspiring pranes, a stint at PGV is a badge of honor. Convicts who survive and thrive there get forever bragging rights and eternal respect. And apparently, if you pay your dues and do as you’re told, it’s a pretty sweet gig, all things considered.  

“You should get your son to be sent over to PGV,” Sra. Rosalía,the old lady who runs the kiosk of coffee and single cigarettes in front of 26 de Julio told a restless mother who’d been holding vigil outside the jail for several days. “The causa is Bs. 10,000 a month, and you can sleep over with him on the weekends if you’d like…plus, no cavity searches.”

Just then, a busload of inmates rode in. “Aquí llegó el hampa de Petare!! ¡Llegaron los malos!” they shouted from the bus with glee.

Not every new arrival makes the cut. El Ratón’s immigration policies are pretty tight: here’s one head of state who doesn’t need to bother promising to build a wall, his territory came with one.

One woman outside the the jail said that her brother had asked to be sent to PGV from 26 de Julio, only to be sent back with his hands and feet crushed by a sledgehammer. Word around the jail was that maybe 200 rejected transfers had come out with stab injuries.

The 50 hostages inside PGV were kept without food or water for more than two days. When El Ratón decided to up the ante last Saturday and demand that families be allowed to visit inmates, he stripped the workers naked — including a pregnant woman — and made them stand on the rooftop, aware that they would be indistinguishable from rioting inmates if the National Guard decided to shoot.


IMG_3552If visiting families carrying luggage and bags of personal items looked like they were moving, it’s because they were: they will remain for weeks, if not months, inside the prison to prevent the authorities from retaliating. Consider them greencard holders: aliens with indefinite leave to remain.

Eventually, the chaos subsided. Ratón got his transfers, the military left, and all was well in the State of PGV.

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  1. OK, this is really really depressing. I had read the titles about people getting kidnapped there but I didn’t follow up the actual news.
    Venezuela is really screwed up. I am so sorry.

          • Have you read Trumps’ actual agenda on his website, or are you relying on the news media distortions to make your mind up for you? The media are a minority with undue influence, and they do not report facts without adding their opinions in the form of slants and distortions. The striking similarities between Chavez and Trump that I see are the propaganda machines turned up full volume in favor of socialism: lauding Chavez as a hero, and maligning Trump.

          • yes, that goshdarn media! Recording things Donald Trump actually says, how unfair is that. How biased.

            If he had an actual agenda that wasn’t populist, magical nonsense, maybe that would redeem his boorishness and pathological lying. But he doesn’t.

  2. And to think that I stopped watching the tv series Prison Break when they did the story line of the south american prison controlled by the inmates as I thought it was too unrealistic. This is actually worse.

    • Yes. What was the transaction fee for facilitating that release?

      Well we now have an excellent example of what brings the regime to the bargaining table.

    • “What other demands did Varela ask of him? What other bargains did Varela get?”

      Loyalty to chavismo, which means, providing shock troops in case the famined slums decide co come down.

    • The operation was handled, on the gov’t side, by José Vicente Rangel Ávalos, Iris’ number two. And by “handled,” I mean they did everything the pran asked for. Iris doesn’t demand. She complies.

          • “Chavismo always gets something in return.”

            In this case, shock troops against the people.

            “…not a bloodbath that could further damage Maduro in the eyes of his Dear Pueblo.”

            Count how many people have been murdered during the whole 18 years of regime (14 of bloody dictatorship since Chávez ordered the slaughter at Llaguno Bridge), you still think that chavismo (ANY upper head in chavismo) CARES about a couple more of murders? Dude, what they care about is to have criminals to unleash upon the people that protest.

            It’s a simple transaction:

            Loyalty in exchange for Impunity.

  3. Venezuela needs to be placed into receivership. The story about the prision, even if only half true, renders Venezuela a failed state.

  4. I;m raying to myself “hey, this is a made up story”, “no way, this can’t be true”, “wow, stuff like this doesn’t happen, does it?”. Then I realized that this prison is in Venezuela, where your wildest ….. nightmares do come true. Unbelievable.

  5. This underscores, rather hideously, that the basic human impulse for betterment and personal gain, when squashed by socialism, simply goes sideways and starts to operate sans regulations. Once the government simply falls, dismantling all of these thug businesses will not be quick or easy. Barbaric. And very sad. Where would a real leader even start when so many armed and powerful and black hearted folk will stand to be done out of so much lucre?

    • “Where would a real leader even start…?”

      They would turn to the military. Police are for keeping the peace, not conquering territory. The military would have to be given a free hand to wage war inside Venezuela to restore sovereign control of all the various “Peace Zones”, prisons controlled by pranes, zones controlled by la guerrilla, the zones controlled by illegal mining interests, etc…

      It will not be pleasant for those who are squeamish, but all roads back to a civilized society go through the military.

  6. Dont know if there are any lessons in statecraft in the Ratons actions unless you believe that the ability to perpetrate vicious acts of extortion and violence represents an admirable political virtue , he was effective because he had to deal with a corrupt and politically weak govt, one that can be easily blackmailed into giving in to the demands of violent and absolutely ruthless criminals because they cant afford to let the country see how feeble and corrupt is their control of the countries prisons !! Crime is fast becoming a well organized and efficient business , even if it uses the most heinous of means to advance their interests.!!

  7. I try to explain this stuff to my buddies in the States and it just doesn’t compute for them. They think I’m crazy. This can’t possibly exist they say.

  8. “El Ratón owns several businesses within PGV: a pizza joint, a burger shack, a supermarket, a chinese restaurant. ”

    Unbelievable.. And this is a Prison, where thieves, criminals, murderers are supposed to be kept behind bars, fed a sandwich through an opening, and allowed to get a 1 hour walk out in the sun per day.

    Besides Chinese food, pizza, burgers, prostitutes, does el Raton also provide pools, discotheques, , cable TV with HBO..? Field trips on weekends.. and the occasional Sushi ans rum, and ganja treats for those who behave and serve him well.. Only in Venezuela..

    It’s clear that the criminal Chavistoide regime allows all of this. Just by looking and/or listening to the adorable Iris Varela, you’ll understand.. The regime wants crime to flourish, thugs to be out there, corruption everywhere, desorden, chaos. And most criminals don’t even make it to these Pizza and Chinese food fun jails. There’s like 95% impunity for all the crimes out there. All the thieves and murderers keep doing what they do, because they know there’s no real police and no punishment. The first thing any serious country does is to control crime, creating a solid judicial system. Tough jails. In the USA you know that if commit any crime, you’ll get caught and serve time behind bars, and no pizza.

  9. Are inmates better off in a prison run by this govts incompetent and corrupt police officials or by someone like El Raton who has made it into a kind of sinister but well organized criminal business ??, perhaps some order is better than the absolute chaos that would break out if El Raton did not have control of the prison ………!! This seems to be the point which the old lady in her small ‘Quiosco’ is making

    Could this have happened in the prisons of Cuba or Nicaragua or Bolivia or Ecuador , where presumably the same kind of ideology as that of our regime is followed ?? very unlikely . That says something to us, that our ills are not just a problem of our Political masters having the wrong ideology, but that besides that they are extremely inept and incompetent in their handling of govt functions …..!!

    Is it a question of the govt prison officials being corrupt while El Raton is not ?? , not so !! , the prison officials are as prepared to run any kind of prison rackets as is El Raton and his cohorts. but what makes the difference is that although El Ratons method are ruthless and criminal he is better organized and competent than the govt officials that have been appointed to govern these prisons….!!

  10. Ok…The most troubling thing is not the fact that being a prison pran allows you to have so much unchecked influence nor the fact that the government will actually (pathetically) meet your demands if you flex your muscle….It’s how the citizens nonchalantly recommend going to El Raton for benefits and protection, as if they were going to a shelter or a damn social security office. It’s how the citizens have accepted the crime lord as a legit source of things that they need.
    Which is all the more crazy when you consider that this guy probably causes more deaths than he saves on a daily basis (because crime empire) and yet people will still look to him for their well-being.
    How long does it take for a country to bounce back from that? How long before we even hit the reset button on our Stockholm syndrome for strongmen?


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