The overflight of the helicopters was over, as was the large military and police deployment which withdrew in the early hours of this Tuesday, November 7th. The large walls were exposed after the opening of a hole in the part that faces the stadium of the Judicial Confinement Center in Ciudad Bolívar, in southeastern Venezuela. Walls that not only hid the music, the zoo animals and the ‘luxuries’, but also the attacks and extortion that occurred inside the prison.
Pableysa Ostos // Correspondent lapatilla.com
It is unknown how long the prison known as Vista Hermosa will be like it is now, empty and silent. According to Remigio Ceballos Ichaso, Minister of Popular Power for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace: “everything is temporary, while the facilities are being conditioned,” but this sounds uncertain and distant.
This Monday, November 6th, was carried out a large military deployment, called by Nicolás Maduro’s regime, “Operation Gran Cacique Guaicaipuro”, an operation that has been repeated in other Venezuelan penitentiary centers (Tocorón, Tocuyito, Puente Ayala, La Pica and Trujillo) that “were led by pranes.” (Pran means gang boss, pranes means bosses.)
In the case of the Vista Hermosa prison, at least 10 buses were used to take away the more than 1,000 prisoners. This prison facility was built in 1950 with an installed capacity for 650 prisoners.
According to official information, the transfers took place in the following way: to the Western Penitentiary Center 1 and the Western Penitentiary Center 2, in Táchira State, 50 prisoners were transferred to each prison for a total of 100.
To the Barinas Judicial Confinement Center, in Barinas State, they took 50 prisoners; to El Marite de Francisco Delgado, in Zulia (westernmost Venezuela), 50 prisoners, and to the Penitentiary Center of the Andean Region Cepra, located in Mérida, they took 60.
While for Rodeo 2 and Rodeo 3, in Guatire, Miranda State, 60 prisoners were taken to each center, that is, 120. For Yare 2 and Yare 3, in Charallave, Miranda State, 60 prisoners were taken to each penitentiary center, all near Caracas in the center of the country.
For its part, 35 prisoners were taken to the 26 de Julio prison, in Guárico State; to the Coro Penitentiary Center in Falcón State, they transferred 70 prisoners; to the David Viloria Penitentiary Center, in Lara State, they took 110 inmates; the CFHN Ezequiel Zamora in Aragua State, 35 prisoners; to the CFHN Libertador in Carabobo State, 60; in the Carabobo Minimum Security, 60; to the Sucre (State) Judicial Confinement Center in Cumaná, 35; and to the José Antonio Anzoátegui Agro-productive Center in Barcelona, 95, bringing the total to 1,000 prisoners transferred.
To this one must add 26 inmates, allegedly belonging to the ‘Wilkins’ gang (one of the various prans who controlled the Vista Hermosa prison), who were transferred to the Criminal Investigation Division of the PNB, located on Paseo Simón Bolívar Avenue in Ciudad Bolivar.
1,128 prisoners were being held in the ‘Vista Hermosa’ prison. Information on the whereabouts of 102 inmates is not available.
Operation ‘Gran Cacique Guaicaipuro’, carried out as a military intervention within the six penitentiary centers mentioned above, has been led by the Directorate of Special Affairs (DAE), belonging to the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), commanded by the head of the DAE, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Enrique Granko Arteaga.
In some videos of the Villa Hermosa prison intervention, Granko Arteaga does not go unnoticed: he can be seen giving orders and wearing an Palestinian keffiyeh. Through his Instagram account, the lieutenant colonel identified by the UN as one of those responsible for the torture of dissidents, posted a video of what was the incursion into the Ciudad Bolívar prison.
“And we moved into Vista Hermosa in Bolívar State, where was carried out the search and collection of: 43 Pistols, 10 Revolvers, 06 Shotguns, 02 Rifles, 05 Submachine guns, 73 Pistol Magazines, 32 Rifle Magazines, 13 tear gas grenades, 02 fragmentary grenades, 01 grenade launcher and 150 grams of TNT, 1 kg C4. From the DGCIM we are committed to continuing to strengthen the security of our nation, especially on the side of the country’s deprivation of liberty centers,” he noted in the publication.
Granko Arteaga is a graduate of the Officer Training School (EFOFAC), occupying fourth place in the II Promotion “Batalla de la Miel” 2003. He was promoted, on June 29th, 2016, in resolution 014717 to major in the Command Staff category. and in 2020 he was promoted as number one in his rank to lieutenant colonel.
Among intelligence officials, this is “considered a merit that he earned when he executed the pilot Oscar Pérez and a group of young people who had already surrendered in the so-called El Junquito Massacre.”
Who were the pranes of Vista Hermosa?
In the case of Vista Hermosa, the prison was controlled by Wilkins Rafael Romero Maluenga, nicknamed “Wilkins”; Giovanny Navas, alias “Pan”; and Edicson González, alias “Chichi”. According to family members, they had left the prison a month ago.
These subjects had already served their sentences a long time ago, but they remained within Vista Hermosa “to continue to control it and for their own safety.” After the leaders finally left, two lieutenants were left in “control”: “Chucky” and “Membra,” who continued receiving orders and reporting to their “bosses.”
Wilkins Rafael Romero Maluenga, alias “Wilkins”, leader of the “Tren de Bolívar” (Bolívar Train, parallel train worker’s union set by the government to control the workers and devolved into an armed gang). He entered Vista Hermosa in 2010. The organization handles extortion, internal drug trafficking and has links with a mining gang that operates in ‘La Paragua’ mining area in the ‘Orinoco mining arch’ in southern Bolívar State.
He was arrested along with “El Ciego” in the case of the murder of Judge Mariela Casado’s sister. Before that, he already had a police record for the crimes of trafficking, possession and detection of narcotic and psychotropic substances.
Giovanny Alejandro Navas Ochoa, alias “Pan”, who is described as a man of great character compared to “Wilkins”. According to internal sources, he had the responsibility of speaking to the inmate population, but they admit that he was less severe than “Boliqueso” (former pran of the penitentiary center). He entered Vista Hermosa in 2010. He was in charge of collecting the “causes” (money collected from prisoners).
Finally, Edison González, alias “Chichi”, who also joined in 2010.
These three pranes had all been detained for being related to the murder of university professor María Gabriela Casado, which occurred on June 17th, 2010. The victim was the sister of the presiding judge at that time, Mariela Casado.
Structures inside the prison
The prison was divided into the following areas: minimum, little tank, prisoner, workshop, observation, annex, church and ‘manchaos’ (stained, marked).
This penitentiary center had basketball courts, foosball courts, sand volleyball courts, a swimming pool, a baseball field, an amphitheater, a café, a small market, a nightclub, as well as medical offices, plus an area for animals (pigs, fighting cocks, among others).
“Vista Hermosa is like a big neighborhood. Maintenance there was done twice a day. The men (evangelicals) did it,” explained the relative of a prisoner.
For 2021, the “cause” in Vista Hermosa ranged between $5 and $8. By then there were 1,625 prisoners. In a quick calculation, if at least 1,000 of them paid 5 dollars of “cause”, payment that had to be made weekly, which is equivalent to 5,000 dollars per week or 20,000 dollars per month.
Two years later, the payment for the “cause” was between 15 and 20 dollars a week, that is, about 80 dollars per month per inmate.