Venezuela's Chavez to boost prison construction

Associated Press
In this photo provided by Miraflores Presidential Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez raises Venezuela's flag during a ceremony commemorating Venezuela's bicentennial in Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday July 14, 2011. Ailing Chavez rallied hundreds of supporters, singing folk songs and calling cancer one of his life's greatest battles. Chavez has been limiting his public appearances since returning to Venezuela on July 4, two weeks after undergoing surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor from his pelvic region.  (AP Photo/Miraflores Presidential Office)

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In this photo provided by Miraflores Presidential Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez raises …

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday said he is instructing officials to boost prison construction after a 27-day uprising by inmates highlighted problems of overcrowding and violence.

Chavez likened the problems in Venezuela's prisons to cancer, saying dealing with them requires "deep treatment."

Days before Chavez underwent a cancer operation last month in Cuba, troops stormed a prison near Caracas in a search for weapons, and armed inmates began an uprising in response. The nearly monthlong crisis ended on Wednesday when hundreds of prisoners emerged from the adjacent Rodeo II prison after negotiations with authorities. Officials have said that several inmates also escaped, including four who were killed by troops.

"New facilities must be built," Chavez said in an interview with state television, adding that he has also decided to create a new Cabinet ministry to oversee prison issues.

"Those old jails must be transformed," Chavez said. "Thanks to God that this case was resolved."

He condemned corruption among prison guards and administrators that has allowed a flourishing trade in guns and drugs in the prisons. "It's like a cancer. We must fight against that," Chavez said.

Chavez announced on Friday that Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala had just arrived for a visit. Chavez called him a brother in a message on Twitter, saying "Let's give him the most patriotic of welcomes!"

Humala, a populist leftist and, like Chavez, a former military man, had delayed his visit because of the Venezuelan leader's health.

Chavez told state television that he has been waking up at sunrise and reading German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He said he also has taken up painting again and has been creating a landscape from one of the windows of the presidential palace.

"I know there are people who are happy because they believe I'm dying, that I'm going to die soon," Chavez said, "but those evil wishes are part of that hatred ... That is erased like a tsunami of love by the blessings and prayers of a nation, of millions."

(This version CORRECTS that prison uprising began before Chavez's cancer operation.)

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