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Venezuela seizes control of gang-run prison with reggaeton studio

TOCUYITO (AFP) – Venezuela security forces on Wednesday seized control of the second gang-run prison in a month, this time uncovering a reggaeton studio where prisoners would film music videos and upload them to YouTube.

The raid comes a month after police and soldiers stormed the Tocoron prison, which boasted restaurants, a pool, a nightclub and a zoo, headquarters of the powerful Tren de Aragua gang whose leader fled before the operation.

On Wednesday, they targeted Tocuyito prison, southwest of the capital Caracas, where more than 2,000 inmates are confined.

“This is the penitentiary centre with the biggest population in Venezuela.

Tocuyito is under the complete control of the public forces,” Interior and Justice Minister Remigio Ceballos told state television, which broadcast images of prisoners cuffed and seated in the central courtyard after being removed.

“We found an impressive quantity of weapons and ammunition” hidden around the prison, he added.

One of the prison’s gang leaders was Nestor Richardi Sequera Campos, whose songs racked up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.

According to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, he was sentenced to 20 years for murder, and was meant to be freed in 2018, “but decided to stay behind bars as if it were a resort”.

ABOVE & BELOW: Members of the Carabobo National Police stand guard outside the Tocuyito prison in Tocuyito, Carabobo State, Venezuela; and relatives of inmates wait for news. PHOTO: AFP