August 30, 2010 / 5:57 PM / 10 years ago

"Invisible" gang leader escapes from Venezuela jail

CARACAS (Reuters) - One of Venezuela’s most notorious criminals lived up to his gang’s name “The Invisibles” by fleeing jail in an embarrassing turn for the government, which is under fire because of crime as an election nears.

Fraiber Velazco, who ran “The Invisibles” and was imprisoned for various murders and kidnappings, walked out the main gate of the high-security Tocuyito prison in central Carabobo state on Sunday, authorities said.

“This happened due to corruption and a mafia which still exists in certain parts of the public administration,” Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami said, explaining that Velazco was able to leave the prison during visiting hours.

Prison director Edgar Hernandez was summoned by the Interior Ministry to explain Velazco’s escape.

Velazco, 27, also fled in May when prison guards were sleeping but he was quickly re-captured.

Venezuela has one of the world’s worst crime rates outside a war zone and the issue has so far dominated political campaigning ahead of the September 26 National Assembly vote.

Critics say President Hugo Chavez has let crime flourish, although he says foreign media and non-governmental organizations are mounting a politically charged campaign over the issue and failing to credit him for initiatives like a new national police force.

Police are frequently involved in crime and the Caracas-based “Invisibles” are known to operate with false identification from various security force bodies. Critics say they have high-level protection.

Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Bill Trott

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