The danger in the streets in Venezuela is, along with shortages and repression, one of the nation's main problems
According to data from the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, in 2016 more than 28.400 Venezuelans lost their lives due to violence. This figure represents a homicide rate of 91.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, a statistic that feeds on assaults, robberies, and kidnappings that occur every day in the South American country.
To understand the increase of organized crime in Venezuela, the situation that its citizens have to face on a daily basis must be put into perspective: inflation on the family basket products has reached 900%, agricultural fields are only producing 30% of the food needed, and every 4 out of 10 children will not develop properly due to malnutrition. In addition to this, the range of impunity in Venezuela reached 98% this year, ranking second in all of Latin America, just below Mexico.
Political conflict, the fuel for violence
Unfortunately, the political conflict affecting Venezuela becomes the fuel that feeds crime within the nation. Numerous reports have shown that the ongoing protests against the government are the main focus of robbery and organized crime. In this country, authorities have ceased to inspire respect and order and have become the most precious trophy of armed gangs, who, without any fear, attack them in order to steal their weapons or perpetrate some sort act of revenge. "For a long time, the criminal found a trophy in the authority; for the young Venezuelan criminal to kill a policeman is to gain hierarchy and prestige, which shows that respect for authority and the law has been lost", explains the expert criminologist Fermín Mármol García, during an interview with the local media.
A report published by the Foundation for Due Process (Fundepro, in spanish), a non-governmental organization that investigates the rise of crime in Venezuela, indicates that in the last five years, more than 1,740 security officials, including police, soldiers, and escorts, have lost their lives in the hands of street criminals who sought to steal weapons, vehicles, or other valuables.
Impunity for torture and persecution
The increase of violence and insecurity in Venezuela seems to be the most faithful reflection of the social nonconformity with the current government. A recent investigation published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Venezuelan organization Foro Penal, reported that between April and September of 2017, 314 cases of human rights violations and abuse of force were documented. The report includes the statements of dozens of victims who describe how the Venezuelan security forces, beat, asphyxiate, torture, and sexually assault detainees in prisons.
It also unveils how arbitrary arrests and abuse of force are perpetrated against people who protests against the politics imposed by Nicolás Maduro. In the words of José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas of HRW, these events "are not about isolated or occasional abuses by unruly agents, but rather the systematic practice of the Venezuelan security forces".
The vast majority of these abuses are never prosecuted and the few that are investigated are minimized by the indiscriminate denial of the facts. And while these crimes perpetrated by police forces are ignored, hundreds of civilians are brought to court and arbitrarily judged for "treason against the country" and "military rebellion”.
All of these facts converge to make of Venezuela a country of chaos, fear, and repression, where crime has become an alternative to survival; hatred and hunger have permeated millions of homes without discriminating social status and violence has become the only dialect spoken in a country that once was positioned as one of the most prosperous and wealthy nations of Latin America.
Latin American Post | Krishna Jaramillo
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto