Tinderbox meets match

There’s a lot to digest in today’s appointment of La Comandante Fosforito (in English, Commander Firecracker) as Minister for the Penitentiary System.

It’s no secret that Venezuela’s prison system is one big, hot mess. The buildings themselves are decaying and overcrowded. If you enter there as a petty criminal, chances are you’ll come out either dead or a full-fledged sociopath. A number of mafias – prison guards, civilian bureaucrats, and the prisoners themselves – traffic in everything from food to drugs to war weaponry.

Fixing this complicated issue is going to require massive skills, lots of courage, and a huge budget. It’s the job for someone open to considering different solutions, who understands how to build things fast, and who has first-hand experience in law enforcement.

On paper, Iris Varela’s appointment is anything but an unqualified disaster. She is like Hugo Chávez, only more violent and flamboyant. She has no managerial experience, and her negotiating skills are nonexistent. As Robert N was saying in the Comments section, she should be in jail, not running them.

But perhaps there is some secret brilliance to this appointment. When it comes to dealing with mobsters, maybe it takes one to know one. And perhaps Varela has enough political capital of her own, and enough knowledge of and influence over the inner workings of the current chavista judicial mafia, to actually make a difference.

Or perhaps the most obvious answer is the right one. Perhaps Varela will turn this into a circus, and will only make a bad situation worse. Maybe that’s why the initial reaction of some in the opposition was … supportive.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but things are bound to get louder before they get quieter. She may be a disaster, or she may be brilliant, but she will not be ignored.

37 thoughts on “Tinderbox meets match

  1. The opposition is sopportive, becuase they will not have to see her at the National Assembly. I would support it too!!!!!!


      • Oh boy Juan, here we go again! You are using her physical aspect to discredit her.

        Why should her hair be lice-filled? Just because she uses it naturally curly? So do I! Some people spend their lives fighting nature and straightening their hair, others, like myself, have given up and proudly go around with our natural hair.

        So please, Juan, discredit her because of how she acts, what she says, what her decisions have been, but not because of her curly hair!


        • OK, Bruni, stop right there. Making fun of someone’s hair is not sexist.

          You were right the last time, you’re wrong this time.


            • Erm, making fun of funny things reveals a sense of humour.

              And i’m sorry, but Iris’s hair is objectively funny.


            • It’s not her hair that looks funny, it’s her face, she looks like miss Piggy but definitely not as clean.


          • Come on Juan,

            both times it was related to physical appearance, age, sex, look: your comment was on downgrading someone because of her physical appearance. It is really shallow.

            The fact that someone has curly hair does not imply that he/she has lice. If you had said the same thing about me (my hair is even curlier than Varela’s, and black, on top of that ), I would have requested a formal retraction and would be mad as hell! (maybe it is a “curly hair temper” !)

            So, since it is all good fun, just beware of lice! They are easily detectable in dark hair but the eggs are much more difficult to spot in blonds…


            • Yeah, sometimes jokes are petty and shallow. Sometimes we make fun of people out of spite, or simply being mean. I also coined the phrase “fat man in the palace,” it was petty, shallow, and I couldn’t be prouder of it.

              I apologize to any curly-haired people out there, including you. No offense was intended. My only offense was intended at Ministra Iris.


        • what if they were to mention Borges’ unibrow or Barreto’s obesity or Soto’s ill fitting clothes and generally looking like a dirty old geezer? just curious….


          • People joke about this all the time.
            Obviously you don’t read El Chuiguire Bipolar.
            One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen was the series of photos with the coat hangers in Soto’s suit.


        • Bruni,
          It’s not the hair that’s the main issue. It’s the appearance of it being a rat’s nest. And not because it’s uncombed, but because the total person looks, well, as Charly put it, not as clean as Miss Piggy.
          Fosforito has consistently looked like she just got out of bed, like she just doesn’t give one fig about her appearance. I don’t expect her to be tutti perfoliati. After all, being a perennial sh*t disturber is dirty work. But you gotta wonder whether fósforo even has time for using a bar of soap. Maybe that’s why looks to be a magnet … for lice!


    • I hate to say it, but the most logical thing to do, given the extent of the overcrowding in the system is to sort through those incarcerated and let some of the lesser offenders out to finish their sentence doing something useful like cleaning streets.

      If the job had landed in my lap, that is probably the first initiative I would have launched to allow me to buy time to make other systematic improvements.

      On another note, does she always look so pissed off?


          • that is a term that has to do with sex, which is something else.
            And sex jokes are allowed among grownups who are not in churches or the like.
            And funnily that term is much more used by women about other women.
            Perhaps you think it is self-degradation, women demeening themselves by using a joke that has to do about oh-sex, but men have equivalent tems for other men. Thanks God I am not in the Soviet Union or in a convent. I won’t use the term again in this post as it is not my blog but I mean it when it comes to Iris Varela, very much. And I would use a similar term if it were a man.


      • Most prisoners are not serving out sentences, but awaiting trial, so the first priority is to speed up the judicial process. Another possibility is to relax bail conditions, so those prisoners awaiting trial may be on the outside until trial.


        • Of course, this should not apply to truly heinous crimes, such as “disseminating false information”.


      • Definitely a good way to get rid of Chavistas, especially the women, the ones who breed the next generation of “vivos”.


    • I actually think it is a great priority, Juan. The problem in Venezuela is that the laws are such that everybody is in. You do anything and the system puts you in jail, just in case.

      On this one, I am with Varela. You have to get fewer people in jail and reform the judicial and penal system that is just too restrictive! For instance, it is absurd that you should be two years in jail without process! This is the case of so many prisoners in Venezuela.

      I have been saying over and over and over that Venezuelan penal laws must be modified if we want to have a country that functions.


      • I’d have to wait and see what the approach is going to be, but the problem is quite often the opposite. You kill someone, and 97% of the time you will get away with it.

        Look, our bleeding liberal heart tells us that people are inherently good, that a slap in the wrist is punishment enough. But the fact is that a country with 17,000 murders per year cannot afford a liberal crime policy. There are 17,000 murderers walking the streets and you could be next.

        So yes, people being held without trial are a travesty. But the prison infrastructure in Venezuela is not appropriate for the crime levels that we have. We simply need more jails.


        • OK. Do we know why these guys are there for? What if I am there because I couldn’t pay a bribe or the cop did not like me?

          I think we need to digitalize it all. You should be able to say in a minute how many people are in how many prisons at any given day.
          Then we can talk.

          Another thing: what about having more cops moving around? (thus, en patrulla)


  2. The opposition has no influence and no voice on the appointment, and anyhow, almost anyone who could conceivably be appointed by Hugo Chavez would make little difference. There’s the plus of her having her hands full and not having to see her at the AN. That said…

    When your enemy thinks of slashing his own throat, you don’t discourage him. In any case, they were only trying to be helpful…

    Nothing to it, really. Like Hugo Chavez would listen to the opposition ever if they advised him not to put Fosforito in charge of prisons.


      • ??? What the devil?

        The unheard and wonderful, Chavez appointing a minister not from his warehouse of suck-ups (also known as PSUV). And I wonder if anybody in the opposition would be stupid enough to accept such an appointment, were it ever conceivable in the mind of our dear head of the executive.


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