Venezuela’s La Planta Prison to be Converted into a Community Centre

Following its closure last weekend, La Planta prison in Caracas is to be converted into a community centre using proposals from local community organisations.

Community groups from the San Angustin parish adjacent to La Planta met yesterday with the mayor of Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez, and the head of government of the Capital District, Jaqueline Faria, to put forward their proposals for the new community space.

“As with the response that was given to the crisis situation in La Planta, where from the start we knew that it couldn’t continue functioning in Caracas …in order to respect the city’s residents… we are receiving proposals [on how to develop the space] from the nearby communities,” declared Rodriguez.

La Planta was closed as part of the Venezuelan government’s policy of shutting down prisons in residential areas, linked to a wider program of prison reform. Following violence between prisoner groups last Thursday in resistance to their transfer to other prisons, Venezuelan authorities managed to negotiate the peaceful eviction of prisoners and the closure of La Planta over the weekend.

The proposals collected yesterday for the recovery of La Planta for the community included a sports centre, a cultural complex, rooms for educational workshops and conferences, and the renovation of the Villa Zolia heritage park.

Community spokespeople also suggested the installation of government social programs such as an Integral Diagnostic Centre (CDI), a community clinic, and a Bicentenario supermarket.

Eduardo Lopez, a representative of the San Angustin parish, said “we want to convert what was [a prison] into a communal centre in which culture, sport, and what is local is seen and made use of”.

The mayor of Caracas, the Capital District government, and community representatives will meet this Saturday in working groups to organise and decide on which proposals to use.

Jaqueline Faria commented that La Planta will become a space where “the revolution flourishes,” adding that in the working groups “we’re going to prioritise and identify what we have in the area and then make a summary of what we’re lacking”.

She described the conversion of La Planta into a community centre as “another achievement of the revolution,” stating to community members that its closure “was a longer process than [President Hugo Chavez] would have wanted, but today it’s done and because of that we’re happy”.

Once the project for La Planta is finalised by the working groups on Saturday, it will be presented to President Chavez for approval. 

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