What happened this Monday in the Uribana jail of Barquisimeto is yet another witness of how degraded has Venezuelan society become. In addition it reveals what a spectacular failure is Iris Varela turning out to be even if some people like yours truly had dared speculate that her gumption and concern for criminals could allow her to reach at least some improvements in horrific Venezuelan jail system. Of course, we were dubious very early own her tenure as her solution for improving jails overcrowding was to forbid sending people to jail. Since she has been muddling through, obtaining at least a modest success in that now transportation to and from tribunals has improved since graft has seized even that item and if you wanted to go fast to your trial (the more so if you were innocent) you had to pay. But overall she has been a failure.
Yet we cannot totally blame her because for her to succeed would have required a commitment from the regime that this one one year before elections with a Chavez sick was not going to make: money for more jails, for improving guards pay checks and working conditions. Not enough votes to gain there I presume; or even more disdain from the high criminals in the regime who may look down on those that did not manage to reach their exalted position (I have in mind the narco generals, just to cite one group of people that should be in jail right now instead of running Chavez succession).
But even this rather pessimistic assessment of her tenure needs revision after last Monday.
In Venezuelan jails controlled by the "pranes" which are top dogs among the inmates and who are the ones that decide what really happen in the jails, in cohort with the Nazional Guard it seems at least in some cases, there is a curious way to keep order. See, overcrowding generates infighting as anyone studying caged animals know. Primates are no exception. So the pranes have found a way to control order and maybe even make a profit along the way: they organize "coliseos". These are programmed fights, public in some exercise area, where people who have differences resolve them with fist and knives with the inmate crowd jeering. Why this charming practice has received a name reminding of the Roman Colosseum I leave it to your feverish imagination.
What is most remarkable is that coliseos are programmed, jail "authorities" know about that (though I doubt a memo circulated), visits are suspended, etc, etc... For a while we did not talk about coliseos, supposedly due to Iris Varela appointment as jail minister and the El Rodeo disaster. Well, recess is over and at least 128 injuries are reported at Uribana jail.
What next Iris?