Unofficially, 16,047 persons were murdered in Venezuelan during calendar year 2009, up over 8.4% or 1,247 murders when compared with the 14,800 homicides reported unofficially in 2008.
In 1998, officially reported murders totaled only 4,500, says the Observatory of Violence, a private NGO that monitors homicides and violence in Venezuela.
Imagine: Over 256% more homicides happened in the 12 months of 2009 than in the year 1998. But when the major daily newspapers of that year are “repasados,” one finds numerous articles on how Venezuelans in 1998 viewed violent crime and insecurity as one of their top concerns.
Eleven years later Venezuelans in droves are being murdered.
President Hugo Chavez has always proclaimed that his Bolivarian revolution is for poor Venezuelans.
But the vast majority of homicide victims in Venezuela are male, young…and poor. The “barrios” are the principal killing grounds.
Of course, violent crime happens everywhere in Caracas and the rest of Venezuela, but the data confirms that over 80% of all homicides happen in the barrios.
The observatory’s data also shows that 91% of homicides are never cleared – meaning that hardly any arrests, trials or convictions. In brutally real terms, 9 out of 10 murders in Venezuela are never solved, and the murderers are never caught.
The observatory says that in 1998 authorities arrested 5,017 persons in connection with 4,500 homicides, but in 2009 only 1,491 persons were arrested in connection with over 16,000 reported homicides.
“The poor are killing the poor,” says the observatory’s director, Roberto Briceño-León.
But all these numbers are unofficial… because the Interior & Justice Ministry stopped issuing official reports on homicide and other violent crimes about two years ago.
The observatory also says that Caracas registered 140 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2009, compared with 18 murders per 100,000 residents in Bogota last year. A Bogota that is immensely safer than Caracas?
Yet when family and friends from Colombia have visited Caracas Gringo in recent years, they always have shortened their visits, longing for the safer streets of Medellin and Bogota.
Chavez ignored the issue of violent crime and insecurity for a decade, literally. Some folks who keep track of these things say that Chavez for years never mentioned crime and insecurity during hundreds of hours of televised presidential speeches, tirades and interminable ramblings.
But recently Chavez has been pledging that he will crack down on violent crime with the new National Police, which he has described as socialist, revolutionary and Bolivarian. Code words for crushing dissent, perhaps. But fighting real violent crime professionally?
Violent crime is out of the government’s immediate control for many reasons, all traceable to Chavez. For example, for years Chavez’s permanent violence-laced populist rhetoric has validated violence as a legitimate mechanism for settling diffrerences and obtaining things. The Chavez regime also has deliberately armed irregular groups of civilians who proclaim revolutionary loyalty to Chavez but operate, with impunity, like organized crime gangs.
While stoking violence and arming thousands of thugs whose professed “loyalties” to Chavez serve as cover for criminal activities, the president also has systematically politicized, corrupted, disarticulated and de-funded all of Venezuela’s civilian law enforcement agencies.
As a result, security sources who find kidnapped people proferssionally say for years now, the great majority of express kidnappings and abductions for ransom in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities have been perpetrated by criminal gangs that include active law enforcement personnel.