It was 1988, Venezuelans were truly upset about crime. Imagine that! That year, there were all of 1,600 homicides in Venezuela, all of 9 homicides for 100,000 people.(I am using Veneconomy statistics)
Then came the Caracazo, the violence of that fateful day made numbers soar and that year, the number of homicides soared to 2,513. The coups in 1992 did not help numbers, 3,336 people were killed in 1992, doubled the number of 1988. And with it, gave way to the outrage and dissatisfaction that led to Hugo Chavez being elected. By the time Hugo came to power, 4,500 people were killed in Venezuela in 1998.
Today, the National observatory for Violence says there were 17.600 homicides in 2010, 57 deaths for each 100,000 inhabitants.
Almost seven times as much as of 1988 (per inhabitant)
Almost triple (per inhabitant) than when Chavez got to power.
These are homicides, the actual killing of a human being. Say nothing about the increase of theft, kidnappings or petty crime. The Government and people don’t even look or think about those numbers.
But look at the other side. According to the same Veneconomy numbers, when in 1998, the year before Hugo Chavez became President, the police made 118 arrests for each 100 homicides. Yes, they would detain more suspects than crimes, but they would be released.
Today that number is down significantly. How much?
Venezuelan police detains nine suspects for each 100 homicides.
That’s right. For each 100 people that lose their life only NINE are detained, many released when they are found not be involved.
Can Chavez be blamed for this?
To begin with, he was the guy who refused to swear he would uphold the old Constitution, Yes, he created a new one, but he seems to have ignored it olympically.
But for 12 years, Chavez simply minimized security as an important issue. He dismantled a fairly competent police management created over the years, replacing them with former or active military with no clue as to how to fight or control crime. Meanwhile Chavez even justified stealing if you are hungry, much the way the Supreme Court decided to decriminalize invasions of private property today.
A prelude of new things to come.The end result will be the same, until the invaders take over the Justice’s property.And they will.
Meanwhile, the fight against crime becomes a struggle. Start with the numbers of weapons. After 13 year without control (and it wasn’t great before that!) the number of pistols, rifles and the like has also tripled. Unless you go and try to reduce that, there will be no progress.
Follow that with jails as full as they have ever been, where the jailed are innocent, half guilty and guilty, but now they all train for a new career in crime under one single roof. Ready for the real world next time the Minister for Prisons decides to lighten up the numbers.
Or take a Justice system that follows now the orders of the big honcho, jailing all those that make it alive to the prison. Yes, Hugo has discovered the crime problem and the cops are dealing with it the most effective political way: Kill them!
Do I need to go on? Not really. In the end, the question is not how we got here, but how do we get out of this?
Which goes back to Daniels’ question: Why do these opposition guys/gals want to be President?