How Did Crime In Venezuela Ever Get to Where It Is today?

December 12, 2011

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?

You bet!

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?

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25 Responses to “How Did Crime In Venezuela Ever Get to Where It Is today?”

  1. The Truth Says:

    Frankly, I think Colombia’s success has more to do wth allowing right wing paramilitaries to get away with mass murder and move into the cities than genuine law enforcement. This has had two effects.

    First, it’s allowed the government a free hand to bomb the FARC to kingdom come in the wilderness without paramilitaries getting in the way. Second, the paramilitaries pushed guerillas out of the cities with government help and killed off or co-opted local gangs. Hence, huge and sudden drops in homicides in urban areas, exemplified by Medellin in particular. I don’t think Colombia deserves the credit they are getting, it’s hugely one-sided and hypocritical the way they’ve done this.

    You also have a situation where their national police as of 2009 have been manipulating the homicide statistics.

  2. Roy Says:

    There are no quick fixes for the crime problem. The crime rates have soared due to simple neglect of the problem over years. It will take the same amount of time and very hard work to reverse it.

    In order to see results, all of the institutions involved, (police, courts, and prisons) must be reformed and gain the confidence of the public over a time. The society must also reform itself as well to achieve the requisite civility and respect for private property and rights of others. Both of these must go hand in hand.

    It requires leadership, and long-term commitment from all elements of the society. Sorry, Venezuela. This isn’t something you can’t just import with oil revenues. You have to do it for yourselves.

  3. Roger Says:

    In Brazil it took the Army going into the slums to clean the gangs out. Considering that the Venezuelan Army had a hard time at El Rancho I doubt they are up for the job. In the end, international peace keepers led by Brazil (?) will have to do the job!? The other possibility is that the next government will be a traditional totalitarian one. That is if they don’t kill you they send you to the gulag and steal your kids.

  4. bob Taylor Says:

    All comunist dictators are the same. The main objectives are to keep the population poor,Give them an enemy to be afraid of eg U.S.A ,nationalise all businesses giving the Government total control,and then giving the people hope that something good is coming..e.g.building programs …
    .Castro is a good teacher,except now Cuba is going the opposite way with people now able to buy their homes and Foreign companies are investing again in the tourism sector.
    Why can’t the opposition candidates just ask the red monkeys What do you want us to do for you for you to vote for me?
    They might learn something !
    Everyone wants to know What’s in it for Me ??

  5. Kepler. Says:

    Guys: jails are some of the most pro-Chavez areas in Venezuela. Check out the Tocuyito jail

    http://www.cne.gob.ve/divulgacion_parlamentarias_2010/index.php?e=07&m=14&p=01&c=071401007&t=00&ca=00&v=02&cir=5
    (but abstention is also higher)

  6. Kepler. Says:

    Rodolfofo,
    I have reliable data for Carabobo. There are some municipios like Libertador (in Carabobo) where the murder rate is about 100. In Valencia municipality most murders happen in the Southern part, which should have a murder rate well over that.
    Less Venezuelans were killed at the Batalla de Carabobo than in one single week in Carabobo.

  7. Rodolfofo Says:

    If Venezuela-wide the count is 57 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants, what is the count for Caracas alone? 100?

  8. bobthebuilder Says:

    Whether you believe Chavez is promoting insecurity or not, the fact is he is not paying a price for it at the polls. So why would he ever take it seriously?


    • How can you be sure he’s not paying a price at the polls for it? The misinformed, or bribed– people who vote for Chavez vote DESPITE the lamentable state of national insecurity, don’t you think? There are many other factors at play, unfortunately.

  9. island canuck Says:

    I firmly believe that the control of crime is not beneficial to the political aspirations of the Chavez government because it directly affects his power base & his local protection.

    The gangs of 23 de Enero and other barrios are his salvation if & when he loses the election.

    They will come roaring out on their motos fully armed & with no hesitation to kill. It will allow him to declare martial law in the name of order & prevent the change of power.

    He’s already said as much saying that none of the oppo candidates will be able to govern due to the chaos if he loses.


    • I tend to disagree with the notion that Chavez willingly propitiates, promotes or condones crime as another tool for his own survival in power. I think he doesn’t like the murder numbers and elevated crime figures, and must know , if he has half-a-brain and is no sick psychopath, that those numbers and public insecurity could be a major cause of his demise. No matter at what level of society, no one likes to get killed or robbed, and they will blame the incumbent government for it. Also, los “choros” and killers are a minority. The vast majority of voting Venezuelans are not thieves or murderers.

      It’s more like things got out of control, the police is incompetent and corrupted, ditto for the jail system, and the judiciary. Add to that the lack of honest jobs, poor economy: crime goes up. It’s not like even a moron as Chavez likes it. He just has no clue on how to control and improve la “inseguridad”

      • firepigette Says:

        Sorry CI

        But i think it is somewhat off base to believe that a criminal does not endorse criminality.

        He is the living example and role model for evil.His actions and words support the politics of blame and aggressive redress.

        He also does not feel that his lack of popularity in some sectors that in part is due to high crime is a definite obstacle to staying in power( he has other methods to win), whereas the fear he creates is a definite plus to maintaining passivity.


        • you know what, dear cochonette de feu, i think Chavez is so deranged mentally that he believes he’s the second coming of Jesus Christ, or at least of Simon Bolivar!.. I don’t think he tries to be intentionally “evil”. And to some extent; I think he thinks he follows some basic “catholic” rules, as in thou shall not kill, or rob, and such, from his rural upbringing. I don’t think he likes to see people get killed or robbed. And I don’t think he considers himself a “criminal”, although for all effects and purposes he is,, he’s so delusional he believes he’s doing the right under the blessed tutelage of Jesusito and Bolivar.. he’s just an incompetent, under-educated, megomanial fool with delusions of grandeur..

          • CharlesC Says:

            Not trying to argue just for the sake of argueing, but, sometimes I wonder-no, more than that-Chavez acts and talks like he wants to kill. (Well, he did talk that way,since he shaved and became a saint…he’s singing a different tune)
            Chavez does want to kill and rob. What do you think about expropriations?
            [Man, just when I ws beginning to like you-ha]
            Firepigette is right. Chavez is not just a sick freak
            he IS a criminal.

    • Roy Says:

      I don’t think that Chavismo actually promoted crime, but they did set the stage for it when they condoned crime against those who opposed them. Once that genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to get it back in.

  10. Guest Says:

    “Venezuelan police detains nine suspects for each 100 suspects.”

    It should be “[…]for each 100 murders.”

    And like it’s been said before (but not enough), the reason Chavez allows so much criminality is that he knows criminals will have to keep him in power unless they want to deal with a new government that actually uses the police to stop crime instead of just beating up protesters and opponents. If you’re a sicario or a kidnapper or a narco or even a purse-snatcher, you HAVE to vote for Chavez (and “encourage” everyone in your neighborhood to do as well) and ensure he remains in power, otherwise you might have to deal with the police. In Venezuela, even petty criminals CANNOT be politically neutral.

    Normally, populist dictators will keep themselves in power by giving away free bread crumbs to the poor, while ensuring that they will always remain poor and thus dependent upon the state. Chavez discovered that he can keep himself in power not only by using those dependent on state money, but also those dependent upon the state’s incompetence.


  11. wow! astounding numbers, thanks for the comprehensive info. There was a report somewhere that Venezuela is right after Iraq and only a few more countries in terms of insecurity and murder..

    The issue of crime and personal insecurity is even bigger than it appears. It has way more ramifications and repercussions than any politician, to my knowledge, has been able to articulate thus far:

    It goes way beyond the constant fear of theft and losing your hard-earned personal property.

    It’s not just the fact that you can get killed any day, anywhere, for a pair of shoes or a stupid watch.

    Or that they can kidnap a family member for a few thousand bucks.

    Not to mention the palpable yet unquantifiable effect it does have on people’s minds and mental health, plus their physical health (stress-related illnesses, notably on the poor and elderly, people actually die of heart attacks and live shorter lives because they live scared-to-death now.., ask any friend living in CCS who’s afraid to stop at a red light, let alone walk the dog in the park)

    Crime and insecurity is also the main reason a majority of the brightest, best prepared Venezuelans have actually left the country. How many of the readers of these “elite” blogs are still living in Venezuela? 10%? Why do you think Miami is now full of educated and clase media-alta Venezuelans, not to mention Spain and other countries.. massive brain drain due to the Chavismo, and directly related to this topic: crime and insecurity, (plus the vulnerability of any private property which makes is very hard to conduct any profitable business)

    If you ask any of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who fled the country, like you or me, “why did you live?” They will invariably cite a few top reasons” .. P’a que no me maten, chico!! for example.. por la seguridad de mis hijos.. That’s the main reason many of the brightest people left the country we love. Even more important than professional/business opportunities abroad (which are also deeply related to crime, and lack of foreign investment, an economy in crisis because no one feels safe..)

    And now we wonder why there aren’t enough competent, educated entrepreneurs and such to make things work better in Vzla: most of them are gone! running for their lives, literally, whenever they could. (Same as in Cuba..and other messed-up places)

    So, this issue of public insecurity, crime and violation of personal property should be at the very top of any future politicians at all levels of the next government. Its ramifications and incalculable repercussions at the very fabric of society are under-estimated, to say the least.

    ” In the end, the question is not how we got here, but how do we get out of this?”

    What to do about it going forward? Well, just by reading the first few comments of bright, educated people right here on these VZla blogs, you get some rather simple, proven and effective solutions to crime, violence, theft, murder and insecurity, plus the protection of private property. As you suggested the other day with regard of the “financial crisis”, the answers are not rocket science.

    I could write another dissertation about that right now, but you all know the drill: get rid of Chavismo, restructure the Police, with real cops, well-trained, well paid, and less corrupt, invest 10 times more on law enforcement, quadruplicate the police force in the streets, reform the judicial system with tougher sentences for criminals, etc.

    On the more subtle, long term measures to reduce crime: improve the economy, more jobs for the poor and the “malandros” out there, and better education, of course. That would bring a lot of us back to our country.

  12. Alex Dalmady Says:

    Chavez’ thought process is certainly different than that of most of us, which is why he’s so hard to bring down.
    My guess is that Chavez thinks in military terms and has determined that crime is a “third party combatant” which inflicts more damage (in terms of power and strength, not necessarily physical casualty) on his enemies than on his backers.
    There may be something to that. Crime distracts attention away from Chavez and also contributes heavily to the “exodus of the elite” that favors his power base.
    Either that, or frankly…he doesn’t give a damn.

  13. Ira Says:

    Ironically, or rather, astoundingly, fighting and preventing crime, including violent crime, is no longer the great mystery it used to be:

    In the United States and many other countries, where there was a will, the funds and public support to make it happen, crime has gone DOWN in most major urban areas–when applying what police departments worldwide have learned in the past 50 years about the actual “science” of crime fighting. In other words, the old days of, “we can’t do anything about it” are just that. The OLD days.

    Even where major drug gangs have wreaked unheard of bloodbaths of death, such as Mexico, Colombia stands as a shining example that you simply can’t beat law enforcement when law enforcement is properly deployed.

    So to me, the big question has always been, why does Chavez put such a low priority on fighting VZ’s outrageous crime rate? Is it simply because he understands the embarrassing truth that this is the result of his political restructuring of police departments and meddling with the judicial system (rendering it inept, as well as rendering the penal institutions inept)…

    Is it because as Miguel pointed out that Chavez has decriminalized crime in the name of some social justice for the hungry (which is ridiculous since you don’t have to kill to steal a loaf of bread and being hungry for cocaine or meth is hardly a noble cause worth defending)…

    Or does Chavez WANT this situation to continue for political reasons?

    I swear, knowing Chavez, this last option is the most plausible to me, but damn if I can figure out what he thinks that political advantage is. And with his convoluted way of thinking, I guess I never WILL be able to figure it out:

    Much, much greater minds than mine have tried to understand the man, but I don’t think anyone has come close to actually doing it.

    • CharlesC Says:

      Right, looking into the mind of Chavez is like opening Pandora’s box.
      Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:
      ” contained all the evils of the world. When Pandora opened the jar, all its contents except for one item were released into the world. The one remaining item was Hope.[1] Today, opening Pandora’s box means to create evil that cannot be undone.”
      Also here’s a great article from Gustavo Coronel:
      http://lasarmasdecoronel.blogspot.com/2011/12/un-curioso-documento-sobre-la-salud.html

      • firepigette Says:

        Charles C

        First of all Chavez is a criminal.He is connected with other criminals internally and worldwide…..let’s call it as it is.

        Secondly, the atmosphere of fear in Venezuela beats the people down psychologically and makes it easier to progressively dominate all areas of life.When people become so fearful they don’t fight back, they are easy prey for anything.The mind plays tricks on people who are living in constant fear.

        Then there is Santerismo.I hate the way this most important topic is ignored on these blogs.Many people in Venezuela believe in it and are hypnotized by it, and the more fearful their lives are the more sensitive they are to its
        energy .Even if it is only their imagination, imagination can ruin a person’s psyche.

        It doesn’t matter if you and I don’t believe.It matters that many people do.I have spoken with a few psychotherapists in Caracas who have told me unbelievable stories about Chavistas who have come to believe in the ” process” through dreams etc- after which point, no amount of
        evil doings by Chavez convinces them of the real truth.

        Statistics, polls, facts, logic, etc have no play among a certain segment of the population( and a rather large sector I must say) : it is the atmosphere of continual fear that allows them to be prey to being so submissive.

        In the case of non Chavistas fear also plays a part in the weakness they feel to fight back.They get used to living like that and after awhile it looks more or less normal.

        • CharlesC Says:

          I believe every word you said is correct.Very well-stated.
          You are absolutely correct. Firstly,Chavez IS a criminal.


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