A study by the International Crisis Group has revealed a person is murdered every 30 minutes due to gang and drug-related violence in Venezuela. It doesn’t help that Venezuela’s neighbours have great crime problems of their own, of course. It’s no surprise then that the study finds that international organised crime filters into Venezuela from Colombia leading to even more kidnappings, drug trafficking and homicides. By KHADIJA PATEL.
While President Hugo Chavez reels in Venezuelan gold stocks from around the world, the report from the ICG has raised deep concern about the incidence of violence in the socialist state. Billed as one of the world’s most dangerous countries, Venezuela’s organized crime gangs, police corruption, a culture of impunity and millions of firearms in civilian hands all contribute to a rampant rate of murder.
Chavez is blamed for not taking the problem seriously enough, but the study cautions that the high rate of homicide in the country did not coincide with Chavez’s ascendancy to the presidency of the country. Organised crime syndicates have grown during the past decade contributing not only to the rise in homicides, kidnappings and extortion rates, but also to a growth in small-scale drug trafficking. The brunt is felt by poor and urban neighbourhoods where violent crime is more severe than anywhere else in the country.
Much of the problem was inherited by Chavez when he took over the country in 1999. At the time he was faced with a country in which homicide rates had tripled in less than two decades and many institutions were in the process of collapse, eroded by corruption and impunity. It is believed that under the “Bolivarian revolution”, the problems have become substantially worse. The report reveals that more people have died in violence in Venezuela than in Mexico’s drug war.
So severe is the problem that presidential elections scheduled for 2012 may have to be postponed as violence threatens to undermine the electoral process. Chavez has attempted to address the problem by instituting a special police force trained in Cuba. The police force is criticised for being ineffectual in addressing the issue more comprehensively, but the study reveals that areas in which the special unit patrols has seen a drop in murders. DM
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