A team of Runrunes and CONNECTAS entered several Venezuelan prisons to investigate the dynamics and functioning of seven prisons governed by pranes, which are in six states of the country. These prisoners are criminal bosses who have constituted organized crime structures of continental scope, like the Aragua Train.
The investigation, that took almost a year, shows how the prisons of Tocorón, Tocuyito, Vista Hermosa, Puente Ayala, Trujillo, El Dorado, and the disappeared Retén de Cabimas (a pretrial detention center that was closed in October 2021) are under the control of the pranesdespite the fact that in the external areas there is a presence of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB).
A series of visits to the prisons studied, in addition to interviews with prisoners, ex-prisoners, family members, police officers and human rights defenders They revealed that more than a dozen crimes are coordinated and ordered from the prisons: drug trafficking, drug micro-trafficking, mining, food smuggling, kidnapping, computer crimes, fraud, extortion, contract killers, arms trafficking, robbery, human trafficking and drug trafficking. of migrants.
The pranes became “entrepreneurs” and “merchants” who also obtain income from activities as diverse as the sale of water, the pig farming, food marketing, the entrance fee to the relatives of those deprived of liberty to enter the prisons, and the organization and promotion of sporting events.
In this last businesshighlights Alvaro Montila, alias “El Loro”, pran of the Trujillo Judicial Detention Center, who has his own gym inside the prison where he trains world-class professional boxers. He also created the boxing promotion company Loro Boxing Round.
These illicit economies generate the pranes and their circle (known as the car) several million dollars a year. But the rest of the prison population does not benefit, on the contrary, they are the first victims of this structure of exploitation. They must pay weekly the cause, a kind of tax or extortion, in dollars. Those who do not pay are confined to uninhabitable areas or subjected to physical punishment.
In a tour of the Tocuyito prison, in Caraboboit is common to trip in the corridors with giant pigs that move freely throughout the prison. The supply of drugs is varied and visible, escorts of the pran –prisoners identified as luceros– use rifles, pistols and shotguns to guard the entrances of each tower.
Tocuyito is like any neighborhood in the country, full of people, tarantines of informal merchants, music. But there are also luxuries there. The pran or principal (as the bosses are actually identified) is Néstor Richardi, alias “Richardi”, who has remodeled the prison.
Other pranes such as Héctor Guerrero, alias “Niño Guerrero”, from Tocorón, have turned the old and dilapidated prisons into their personal castles, where there are swimming pools, discos, gyms, zoos and restaurants. While Junior Yegues, alias “Pata e’queso”, from Puente Ayala, celebrated his daughter’s 15th birthday with a big party inside the prison; and the three chiefs of Vista Hermosa became merchants.
But in parallel these prison bosses also lead crimes that put the authorities in check. El Loro is the ringleader of the gang that carries out scams through Marketplace, according to a CICPC report, which was accessed for this investigation; and “El Conas”, who is wanted for threatening the attorney general, Tarek Williams Saab, was one of the pranes of the Cabimas checkpoint.
In addition, the investigation identified how the prison “pranato” has managed to extend its operations through alliances with other organizations that operate in different regions of the country, such as the gangs of “Santanita” (Lara), “El Cagón” (Zulia), “Wilexis ” (Miranda), “El Koki” (Caracas), “El Ciego” (Bolívar), “Los Leal”, “Los Meleán” and “Yeiko Masacre” (Zulia).