Venezuela horse mafia

It sounds like a page-turning novel: Venezuelan authorities say a gambling ring poisons one of the country's most popular race horses ahead of a key derby, nearly killing the animal and shining a light on an underworld where millions of dollars in bets are made under the table.

But the attack on 4-year-old Rio Negro as he prepared for the Army Day derby was real, and just the latest grim milestone in a wave of lawlessness and violence that has made Venezuela one of the world's deadliest places.

The horse is still struggling to regain his strength after almost dying. There have been other cases of using poison to "sleep" a race horse in Venezuela, including three in the last year. But the attention thrust on Rio Negro's dramatic plight by the media and top level government officials has underscored the growing brazenness of well-organized betting rings that many say threatens to destroy a sport nearly as popular here as baseball.

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Below is a photo essay by photographer Fernando Llano.

 

Opening text from the AP Story AP PHOTOS: Horse poisoning alarms Venezuela racing, by FABIOLA SANCHEZ.

 

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Nat Castañeda is an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Brooklyn, New York. A California native, Castañeda works primarily in video and collage, with an emphasis on tactile intimacy with her materials remaining an important aspect of all her projects. Common issues in Castañeda’s work are the conflating of iconography and pornography, the questioning of traditional gender binaries, and the role of technology within personal narratives. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts and has shown at venues such as El Museo del Barrio and Electronic Arts Intermix. In addition to her art practice, Castañeda currently works at The Associated Press where she leads a team that curates AP's online archive of historic and contemporary photojournalism. Castañeda’s photography has appeared in the New York Times,U.S. News & World Report and USA Today.