San Antonio Prison – Paradise on Earth in Venezuela

children-of-inmates-san-antonio-prisonThe San Antonio  prison  on Margarita Island looks like any other prison in Venezuela. But when you get inside it looks more like a Las-Vegas style playboy club than a prison. Over 2,000 Venezuelans and  foreigners  are kept there, in most cases because they have been caught  dealing  with drugs.

Margarita Island is starting point for drug  shipments  to the United States, Mexico and the islands nearby.  People who get  arrested  here often wander directly to San Antonio prison.

Although the  blocks  for women and men are separate  they mix with each other on the prison’s grounds. Women in their bikinis lie near a swimming pool. Prisoners smoke marijuana, and reggae music fills the air. There is even a  cockfighting  arena where prisoner and visitors can  place bets .

Prisoners who have the money can organize anything they want for their  cells . Some have satellite TV or  air conditioning . The prison has a total of four swimming pools. The  inmate  boss of the prison is Teófilo Rodriguez, a  convicted drug trafficker  who, more or less,  runs  the place and has more  authority  than prison guards .

Although  possessing  guns and other  weapons  in the prison is quite normal, some  inmates  insist that it’s safer in the prison than outside where the risk of getting shot is much higher.

Guards at San Antonio prison shrug  their shoulders when they are asked about the special situation of the prison. They say that it is relatively quiet and safer than most other places.

The prison system in Venezuela has many problems. Prisoners often have  extended freedom  in their cells.  They are allowed laptops,  cell phones  and organize crime, killings and drug deals from the prison.  Authorities say that these conditions are because prisons are overcrowded , there are not enough guards and many prison guards are corrupt and get money from the  inmates .

Although Margarita Island is a quiet place, crime runs very high in the prisons of the country.  In 2010 a total of 476 prisoners were killed in Venezuelan prisons, about 1% of the  prison population .



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