374 and counting….
The Bello Monte morgue in Caracas has officially logged the reception of 374 corpses during the first 25 days of 2009, including 32 cadavers received over the 24-25 January weekend. On Saturday the bodies of 11 homicide victims arrived at the morgue, and 21 more on Sunday.
The corpses of Caracas murder victims are arriving at Bello Monte at the rate of 15 per day, over 5,640 annually.
In Caracas on Sundays there is no rest for the wicked, or their prey.
Caracas Gringo took the whole family to Parque del Este yesterday (Sunday) to see the reptiles and birds.
My three-year-old son Andrew particularly likes the reptiles. He owns a pair of water pistols he likes shooting at the alligators lazing in the sun, and at the serpentarium hangs boa constrictors measuring up to two meters around his shoulders and neck. He also loves trading shrieks with the macaws, so we stopped at the bird cages, bought ice creams for Andrew and Dad while Mom gave five-month-old Derek a breastfeed.
Another family including a pair of teen-aged boys sat on the benches next to ours. One was chatting excitedly on his cell phone, and between exchanges with whoever was at the other end of the call he related the latest “news” to the second teenager on the bench.
“No joda! They shot him in the arm. The bullet fractured the bone too. The doctors at El Llanito (public hospital near the Petare slum) say he might lose his arm.”
Poor young men, ranging from the ages of 13 to 25, are the group likeliest to commit a murder or be murdered in Caracas, which accounts for about one-third of all murders committed nationally.
The morgue at Bello Monte doesn’t publish data about the victims it receives. However, a review of the crime (sucesos) pages of the daily newspapers Ultimas Noticias and 2001 indicates at least 90% of the people murdered in Caracas during the first 25 days of 2009 were poor youths between 13-25 years of age.
I asked the pair of teenagers on the bench next to ours how old they were. “Sixteen,” said the one with the cell phone.”Fifteen,” the second said.
Who was shot? “Mi pana.” (Rough translation: “My homeboy.”)
Robbery attempt? “No. He got into a fight with another boy, and one of the other boy’s friends shot our friend,” the one with the cell phone replied.
But the shooter “se jodio,” the second teenager said.
Why? “Porque mi pana sabe donde vive y lo vamos a esperar en la bajadita,” the cell phone teenager explained. (Rough translation: “Because my friend knows where (the shooter) lives and now we’re going to get some payback.”)
Where do you live? “La Alcabala.”
La Alcabala is a slum in the Petare mega-slum, It overlooks the Makro hypermarket in La Urbina, at the eastern end of Caracas. Gun fights between opposing gangs happen daily in La Alcabala. The distance between Makro’s upper parking deck and La Alcabala is only about 300 meters as the crow flies.
For nine months last year one of my security gigs was supervising some three-dozen officials working inside Makro. As a result, I visited Makro several times a week, and over those nine months personally witnessed several gun battles between armed youths in La Alcabala from where I parked my SUV on Makro’s upper parking deck.
This pair of young boys I was chatting with lives in La Alcabala. Thin, feral, fearless boys; their chances of surviving unscathed in La Alcabala past the ages of 25 are very poor.
Their mother and father (I assume) were listening to our exchange without joining in. Occasionally the man I assumed was their father would glance our way, perhaps wondering why this middle-aged musiu pitiyanqui was bothering his boys.
But he didn’t say anything either while the boys discussed how they would join their “pana” in exacting revenge against the shooter. The cell phone owner said the shooter “…se jodio. Mi pana lo va a quebrar.” (Rough translation: “He’s f***ed. My homeboy’s going to kill him.”). The younger of the two boys laughed.
Andrew finished his ice cream and smiled at me as the overflow dribbles from his chin. “Vamos a jugar futbol, papa,” he said.