Venezuela seizes control of gang-run prison with reggaeton studio

Venezuela seizes control of gang-run prison with reggaeton studio
Venezuela seizes control of gang-run prison with reggaeton studio

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Members of the Bolivarian National Guard stand guard outside the Tocuyito prison as inmates wait to be transferred. — AFP pic

TOCUYITO (Venezuela), Oct 26 — Venezuela security forces yesterday seized control of the second gang-run prison in a month, this time uncovering a reggaeton studio where prisoners would film music videos and upload them to YouTube.

The raid comes a month after police and soldiers stormed the Tocoron prison, which boasted restaurants, a pool, a nightclub and a zoo, headquarters of the powerful Tren de Aragua gang whose leader fled before the operation.

On Wednesday, they targeted Tocuyito prison, southwest of the capital Caracas, where more than 2,000 inmates are confined.

“This is the penitentiary centre with the biggest population in Venezuela. Tocuyito is under the complete control of the public forces,” Interior and Justice Minister Remigio Ceballos told state television, which broadcast images of prisoners cuffed and seated in the central courtyard after being removed from their cells.

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“We found an impressive quantity of weapons and ammunition” hidden around the prison, he added.

One of the prison’s gang leaders was Nestor Richardi Sequera Campos, whose songs racked up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.

According to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, he was sentenced to 20 years for murder, and was meant to be freed in 2018, “but decided to stay behind bars as if it were a resort.”

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Carlos Nieto Palma, coordinator of A Window for Freedom, a prison rights NGO, said that for years “prisoners have been in control” of the country’s jails.

They finance their operations by “charging prisoners for vaccines, drug trafficking, extortion, kidnappings and endless criminal activities,” said Nieto Palma.

“Hopefully this operation will help improve the Venezuelan prison system, which is in chaos,” he added. — AFP

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