On Violence in Venezuela: Data and Realities


Alejandro Arratia is political analyst

The murders of Monica Spear and Henry Berry last January 6 on a road in Venezuela burst into the media as a novelty news, but the unfortunate reality is that this is a usual event in Venezuelans' everyday life. The profile of the young people killed determined that this violent action should appear on the pages of local events. A German newspaper titled it, "Violence gets a face". With this couplethousands of victims have managed to escape oblivion. How long will the incriminating beautiful face keep demanding punishment for the performers and politicians responsible for the crime?

Those who cheerfully pull the trigger must pay for their crimes. The argument that they're the result "of poor social functioning"–although relatively true–is very dangerous, and entails a justification leading to impunity. In a country where only 3 out of 100 murders go to trial, the lack of punishment is one of the most important factors in the loss of security. Pointing to the regime is also imperative, as it does not fulfil its duty of guaranteeing the rights of citizens; on the contrary, it has always touted "understanding" for theft and encourages daily hatred among the different sectors.

The results are plain to see. In 1999–at the end eight uninterrupted periods of democratic governments–the official account of homicides was of 5,868. In 2013 there were 24,763 violent deaths, 3 per hour, one every 20 minutes, which should be added the tragic sum of 200,000 in 14 years of authoritarianism. The homicide rate, 79 per 100,000 inhabitants, is one of the largest of the world. The data are provided by the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, because December 2003 was the last year of free access to information on crime and offence.

The give and take of statistics may, with good reason, be or appear to be obscene if the dispute is about life and death. Indeed, when such levels of dehumanisation and ignominy have been reached, we are confronted with a non-numeral moral dilemma; but figures and comparisons of terror in Venezuela with its immediate past and the behaviour of violence in Latin America and the world, are an essential resource to fight government lies and the campaigns of progressivism, and take to the more unsuspecting people everyday reports which, for their mere horror, would otherwise seem unreal.

Official speeches and high-flown "committees" leave theregularity of murders unchanged. And the projection threatens to exceed 24,763 in 2013. Those outrageous levels were reached gradually; they do not reflect any outbreak of war or natural catastrophe. Inthe 90s the rate was 13 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants; in 2009 it rose to 49, in 2012 to 56. The government owns the record of 20 security plans in fifteen years. They repeat themselves, the same paraphernalia and promises that "now we will take radical measures." The most-favoured side, blaming violence on soap operas.There is no hope.