Venezuela: Ten arrests over fatal Colombia clashes
Venezuelan officials make ten arrests over deadly cross-border raid; further tensions stem from prison transfers; and British woman released from Margarita jail.
Venezuelan officials make ten arrests over deadly cross-border raid
Authorities in Zulia state detained ten people on Friday suspected of participating in a border attack last Monday that left 12 Colombian soldiers dead and four wounded.
Venezuelan Minister of Defence, General Henry Rangel Silva, confirmed that the men are being handed to Colombian officials who will investigate whether they are linked to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – FARC).
‘We are in the process of determining their relation [with the guerrillas] in order to be able to act within the law. We have always been respectful of the human rights of every person on our territory,’ Rangel said in a press release last week.
The attack fuelled political tensions in the neighbouring countries, who have failed to enjoy a harmonious relationship in recent years. The FARC are accused of using Venezuelan territory as a base from which to stage attacks, whilst President Hugo Chávez has previously been accused of turning a blind eye to such arrangements.
However, Chávez responded to the most recent attack by sending 3,000 Venezuelan soldiers to reenforce security along the border, which has been revealed in televised reports as seriously lacking in military control.
In less than two weeks, a total of 19 Colombian soldiers have been killed and a further 16 wounded at the Colombia-Venezuela border. The Colombian Army named the 33rd and 59th FARC fronts as the culprits of the recent raids.
Further tensions stem from prison transfers
More national tensions have arisen from last week‘s prison transfers following the closure of La Planta penitentiary centre as relatives attempted to visit inmates in their new residence of Rodeo 1 under chaotic conditions.
On visiting day last Tuesday, a queue formed at 5am outside Rodeo 1 with women and children waiting as long as four hours to see loved ones. Concerns have arisen surrounding overcrowding at the prison, which last year saw extensive riots that left at least 25 dead.
Meanwhile, photos of the now-abanoned La Planta prison have been released by national press, showing the ruins of wings that went up in flames, cells that were ransacked, and walls that were demolished.
Details of the so-called ‘Ley de la Cárcel‘ ['Prison Law'] were also published by Caracas-based newspaper Últimas Noticias. Followed by inmates and guards alike, the internal code of honour allowed prisoners to be transferred in possession of guns, permitted the destruction of evidence, promoted the right of inmates to hit their wives and banned extra-marital affairs.
British woman released from Margarita jail
A British woman who spent three years in San Antonio prison for drug trafficking has been released and reunited with her children in Britain, the UK press reported this week.
Laura Webb, 34, and her ex-husband Paul Makin, were arrested in February 2009 at Porlamar airport on the Caribbean island of Margarita when 53lb (24kg) of cocaine was found in their luggage.
Webb, from Merseyside, was initially sentenced to four and a half years, which was later reduced to three. She continues to maintain her innocence.
Makin, who pleaded guilty to charges of trafficking, is still serving his eight-year sentence in the same prison his wife was sent to. A New York Times video of leisurely conditions in San Antonio – controlled by drug barons and gangs – contradicts widespread international imagery of Venezuela’s lawless prisons.