Lavish prison with swimming pool and zoo becomes warzone as army battles gang

A “mega-gang” and thousands of troops battled it out for the control of a lavishprison which contains its own pool,nightclub and zoo.

While it may sound like make-believe, the Tocorón prison in Aragua, north Venezuela, has been under the control of the country’s most notoriousorganised crime group, Tren de Aragua, for years. The gang’s leader, Héctor Guerrero Flores, in the slammer for murder and drug trafficking, was so powerful that he reportedly used to come and go as he pleased.

On Wednesday, 11,000 members of theVenezuelan security forces were deployed to relinquish the group’s tight grasp on the facility and regain power. It marks one of the nation's largest deployment of security forces in history.

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Those locked up in its walls could allegedly roam freely around the lavish, hotel-like lock-up. Facilities include a swimming pool, nightclub, gym, casino, restaurants and even a mini zoo, local media reported.

Security guards were reportedly seen carrying TVs, microwaves and even motorbikes away from the jail. Living inside Tocorón became so desirable that even those who weren't incarcerated were said to have lived side by side with inmates.

After authorities announced that 6,000 prisoners would be relocated, some relatives cried outside, unsure where they would go next. “I am waiting to hear where they are taking my husband… I was living in there, but they kicked us out,” Gladys Hernández told AFP.

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Venezuelan Interior Ministry, Remigio Ceballos, congratulated officers for regaining “total control” of the prison and dismantling “a centre of conspiracy and crime” on his X, formerly Twitter, account. President Nicolas Maduro praised the operation as a “great success in the fight against criminal organisations”.

However, some inmates escaped during the operation as the government later announced a “second phase” of the operation for the “search and capture” of “fugitive criminals”.

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