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Published on 13 Jan 2014 | over 3 years ago

Party Prison: The villains and murderers banged up in a South American Benidorm

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Latin American jails are usually dark places. But San Antonio Prison in Venezuela could be mistaken for a holiday resort, with its swimming pool, food stalls and overnight accommodation for guests.

"This is a surreal paradise. They are safer here than anywhere else in the city", says psychologist Karina Hum. It's so good that many don't want to leave. But behind the dance parties and families having fun in the sunshine, the world of drugs, guns and violence is still evident. The man in charge is El Conejo, a powerful and famous jailed gangster. "The government here does not control anything at all", says Carlos Nieto Palma, who runs a non-government organisation that monitors the prisons. Recognising the authority of criminals solves a big problem in the prison system, but it also means turning a blind eye to what criminals do best. "We are promoting a penitentiary revolution", says Prisons Minister Iris Varela.

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