Venezuelan prison sees 65 inmates escape on Caribbean island

CARACAS, April 17 — Venezuela’s Margarita Island in the Caribbean, a magnet for tourists around the world, was on lockdown yesterday after 65 inmates escaped from a local prison, officials said.

The inmates broke out from a prison in the town of La Asuncion overnight Monday to yesterday.

Vice-admiral Alexander Velasquez, head of the Nueva Esparta military zone, said that 159 people were being held at the prison.

“Of those 65, five have been recaptured, and they executed one during the escape,” Velasquez said.

Breakouts are common in the Venezuelan prison system due to poorly trained and corrupt guards, overcrowding and weak security.

Some 2,200 security personnel were deployed across the island to search for the escaped prisoners, Velasquez said.

Two prison guards were wounded with knives during the escape, local media reported, adding that ahead of the breakout the prisoners had stolen shotguns, a revolver, ammunition and a motorcycle.

Margarita Island is Venezuela’s premier destination for foreign tourists and is especially busy during Holy Week festivities.

“The whole community is on lockdown, with road checkpoints” to maintain and guarantee security, tweeted Morel Rodriguez, mayor of the nearby town of Maneiro.

Carlos Nieto, head of the prisoner-rights group A Window to Freedom, said the prison “had no type of security conditions, and had weak surveillance” over the prisoners.

The inmates had been transferred from the San Antonio prison, also located on the island, which the government closed three years ago.

In 2018, some 470 people escaped in 70 prison breaks in Venezuela, according to A Window to Freedom. Of those, 105 were recaptured. — AFP

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