On the tourist island of Margarita, life is
good. There is beautiful beaches, a popular bar and the pool is sparkling. But it’s here
that the party’s really started. And there’s plenty for the kids to do as well. No, this
is not another resort. In fact you have to commit a crime to stay for any length of time.
Welcome to San Antonio prison! I just happen to be in this prison, I am not
from this country. Ricardo is Argentinian. He is a boat captain
and like many here was jailed for drug trafficking. He’s agreed to be my guide. I was surprised when I arrived in this prison
because it is not like a prison. I found a restaurant – I found a barbecue place, with
barbecued chicken. There are places to drink, I was really surprised. It is not like a jail. I understand his surprise. As well as the
pool, there’s the boxing ring. Pop up kitchens. Food prepared with sharp knives and meat cleavers
and plenty of ways to make money. The idea takes a bit of getting usedto, but I can see
why Ricardo says, people actually want to be here. They want to come here on weekends because
here we have a pool, we have places to relax and switch off.  It’s not glamorous to say
you are going to prison, but the people who come to visit are happy. They have peace of
mind when they come because they know we are fine here. This prisoner is having a family day. He is the uncle of one of my brothers. Really? Yes – The whole family is here
– Yes It’s no mansion and we have no Jacuzzi,
it’s cramped but comfortable. We share everything. So, we behave so that we can live together
with our loved ones. Come and see how we live. May I? Yes, come in. Try some? What is it? Guarapa. No thank you. If you are filming, you have to try, go on. You drink first. Guarapita is a powerful drink made in the
prison. Who is that? Enrique’s son. Can I see the photo? Is he coming to see you
today? No, he is coming tomorrow. Thank you.
I’m very proud that my mum is visiting me, – Happy?
– Happy. I have been here for three years and six months
now. How many years do you have left?
About five. This has always been my job — being a hairdresser,
and it is still my job now that I am in prison. It’s been good for me — I even work with
visitors. Who are your most frequent clients?
The visitors. Women? Yes. You cut children’s hair as well. Of course, it’s no problem. Do you feel okay here in prison? Yes, we are prisoners but we live well. Visitors are allowed three days per week ..and
anyone who wants can stay over the weekend. Is she your wife or your girlfriend? She is my friend. Friend. Okay.
A friend who won’t go away. I join this family relaxing in the shade and
learn that psychologist Karina Hum is visiting her daughter’s boyfriend. She’s writing a
book based on the stories of prisoners. I know what prisons are like in Venezuela,
and this is paradise – a surreal paradise. I have interviewed many people who don’t want
to get out. Even if they are freed, they don’t want to go, they are safer here than anywhere
else in the city.  You see guns, drugs, everything, but no one gives you any trouble. It’s crazy.
But it has given prisoners a quality of life. As I wander around, I constantly see this
sign. It’s the symbol of the prisoner who runs the prison, El Conejo, the Rabbit.
There are no prison guards to be seen and nothing happens here without his approval.
He’s known as a prane, a powerful jailed gangster. He was the one who said I could be here and
film with my iPhone. These are some of his enforcers. . I know they carry concealed guns.
Part of the deal for getting me into the prison was not to film any of the weapons here. Is that camera yours? Yes. Even the baseball team bears his logo. The people who control all the prisons in
Venezuela are the pranes and the prisoners. The government here does not control anything
at all. Carlos Nieto Palma runs Window for Freedom,
a non-government organisation that monitors the prisons. He’s extremely critical of the
Prisons Minister. The thing is, Iris Varela knows nothing about
prisons and it is that lack of knowledge that has caused all this chaos And this is Iris Varela. She’s a popular minister in a controversial portfolio. So it’s part of the package of surprises for
the transformation of lives of prisoners in our homeland. She says that despite the death of Hugo Chavez,
Venezuela’s “revolution”  continues… We are talking about the transformation of
prisoners into new people. We are promoting a penitentiary revolution. She’s here at another prison for a special
sports day… one of her initiatives. I asked her about what Carlos Nieto Palma calls
“chaos” and anarchy in the jails. How many jails are under your control?
All of them. I don’t think anarchy exists in penitentiary precincts any more.
Carlos wanted to show me a remarkable photo from the jail I was in – The minister and
the Rabbit. Did you see the photo of the minister sitting
on El Conejo’s bed? That is enough to make you wonder, you can’t be sure whether she
is the minister or the wife who’s visiting and spending the conjugal weekend with him. How did he become the boss of the prison? Well, he was a famous drug trafficker, when
he arrived at the prison, everyone knew who he was. He got there and continued giving
orders. Back at San Antonio, the weekend party continues.
In a country known for extreme violence in jails, the government  is happy for scenes
like this…  thanks to the Rabbit. That makes it difficult for the government
to take action to regain control without resorting to violence. That is why they have recognised
them as figures of authority and thereby re-legitimised them. It’s clear that the Rabbit’s tight control
over the prison was solving a big problem for the government. But according to Professor
Neelie Perez from the University of Venezuela, this also means turning a blind eye to what
criminals do best. There is evidence that shoes that it is from
within the prisons that crimes on the outside are organised. The Pranes employ kidnappers,
they organise crimes with their mobiles, for instance. It’s like a lie they are all aware
of, everyone knows the situation but no one confronts it. As the sun goes down, I realise that many
of the families aren’t leaving, so I decide to organise a hammock for myself. Good night. It’s a strange feeling waking up in a prison,
with people sleeping everywhere. It’s early in the morning now, all the prisoners were
called to be counted at about 5am and late afternoon at about 4pm.  I didn’t feel concerned
being around all these men, I knew that the Rabbit’s rule was absolute. If anyone gave
me a hard time, they would have to answer to him. This man apparently stepped out of
line. He told me he had been shot through the hands by the Rabbit’s enforcers. I’m taking antibiotics. Do you think they are helping?
Yes. Is it better? I can move all my fingers. You can move them fine? There is no tendon damage As the weekly cockfight begins, it’s obvious
that as long as you don’t step out of line, life is sweet in the revolutionary prison.