Free Markets, Free People

It is safer in Baghdad than Caracas

That socialist paradise created by Hugo Chavez has a new failure to add to its long list of failures – the failure of the government to provide the population with protection and security. Venezuela has become the murder capital of the world:

In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.

Pretty convincing numbers if you ask me. Iraq is war torn and has car bombs going off all over the place and yet there were almost 4 times the deaths in Venezuela the same year.  When you look at the numbers over the whole of Chavez’s rule, they’re mind boggling:

Venezuela is struggling with a decade-long surge in homicides, with about 118,541 since President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a group that compiles figures based on police files. (The government has stopped publicly releasing its own detailed homicide statistics, but has not disputed the group’s numbers, and news reports citing unreleased government figures suggest human rights groups may actually be undercounting murders).

There have been 43,792 homicides in Venezuela since 2007, according to the violence observatory, compared with about 28,000 deaths from drug-related violence in Mexico since that country’s assault on cartels began in late 2006.

Imagine that – we know a drug war is being waged in Mexico and we know the level of violence it has spawned, especially near the border.   Venezuela has suffered almost twice the number of deaths as have occurred in the Mexican battle with the drug cartels.

In fact, the homicide numbers look more like those you’d find in a war.  It points to a system that is either badly broken, turning a blind eye or incompetent – or perhaps a bit of all three.

More than 90 percent of murders go unsolved, without a single arrest, Mr. Briceño-León said. But cases against Mr. Chavez’s critics — including judges, dissident generals and media executives — are increasingly common.

Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda, a state encompassing parts of Caracas, told reporters last week that Mr. Chávez had worsened the homicide problem by cutting money for state and city governments led by political opponents and then removing thousands of guns from their police forces after losing regional elections.

Chavez has spent years wooing the poor as potent electoral allies in his bid to remain in power:

During his 11 years in power, Chávez has cast himself as their champion. He often takes to the airwaves to tell Venezuela’s most humble that “no one loves you like I do” and warn them about being shunted aside by the “squalid bourgeoisie” if he ever loses power.

The government has plowed millions into healthcare, education and subsidies. According to the United Nations, Venezuela is a regional leader in reducing the income-gap between the rich and poor.

But other parts of the economy are stumbling badly, making even some of his most loyal supporters grumble.

In 2010, this oil-rich country will join earthquake shattered Haiti as the only economy in the Americas that will see its gross domestic product shrink; inflation — expected to exceed 30 percent this year — is eating away purchasing power; and crime is rampant.

As you can see Venezuela is also the regional leader in killing not only its citizens but its economy.  And his base is indeed grumbling:

Ana Sanchez, 54, runs a government-subsidized day care center in the Simón Rodríguez sector of Caracas. She said she hasn’t received the funds in more than six months.

In the past five years, she has been mugged three times and her family has quit getting together in the evenings for fear of crime.

“We are living through terrible times,” she said, as she looked for clothes at the market. “It didn’t have to be this way, but the whole tortilla got turned.”

The change is not sudden. For the last two years Chávez has seen his popularity slide, said Saul Cabrera of the Consultores 21 polling firm. The latest polls show just 36 percent of Venezuelans approve of the president’s performance — the lowest figure since 2003, when Chávez survived a strike that decimated the economy.

A poll by Hinterlaces shows similar results — 65 percent of the population thinks the country is headed the wrong direction. But dissatisfaction does not always translate into votes, said Oscar Schemel of Hinterlaces.

The opposition has failed to inspire the poor or provide a coherent or “believable” proposal, he said.

The opposition there sounds like the GOP here.  And the fact that Chavez has actively shut down opposition press.  But there are cracks showing up in the foundation of Chavez’s support:

But even in the 23 de Enero neighborhood, there are signs that Chávez’s support is cracking, said Manuel Mir, the neighborhood campaign coordinator of the Un Nuevo Tiempo opposition party.

In the past, neighbors have torn down campaign tents, threatened opposition candidates and intimidated supporters, he said. During regional elections in 2008, the party had to hold its meetings outside of the area for fear of reprisals.

Now, they are meeting inside the community, he said. People are opening their doors for opposition candidates.

“This time a lot of people are dissatisfied. There are problems with basic public services and crime,” Mir said. “People think now may be the time for a change.”

Sounds like Venezuelans are wanting real change as much as many Americans.  But Chavez runs the electoral process, pretty much owns parliament, and has stuffed the courts with his supporters.  Pushing him out of power is not going to be an easy thing.  But as the situation continues to deteriorate, and even his base of power begins to notice, he may find it very difficult to hang on.  Unfortunately, having watched Chavez over the years, my guess is he’ll end up being carried out of office feet first rather than willingly giving it up. 

~McQ

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11 Responses to It is safer in Baghdad than Caracas

  • The template, Cuba, has persevered for fifty years. The Castro brothers strike me as cynical manipulators who cloak their depredations in high sounding patriotic populism. In essence, they are pragmatic caudillos. Chavez comes across as a slightly irrational version of Fidel. Probably the only hope the population has is he will run out of money to pay his police and armed forces. Lose the men in the barracks, and you lose power.

  • This is one instance where an old fashioned, bloody revolution is needed, and is likely the only thing that would work.  What an awful shame.

  • “In fact, the homicide numbers look more like those you’d find in a war.  It points to a system that is either badly broken, turning a blind eye or incompetent – or perhaps a bit of all three.
    More than 90 percent of murders go unsolved, without a single arrest, Mr. Briceño-León said. But cases against Mr. Chavez’s critics — including judges, dissident generals and media executives — are increasingly common.”
    A fourth alternative – the body count (and the inability to solve the ‘crime’) could also reflect a certain  tendency to ‘rid me of that meddlesome (x)’  in ways Henry II’s knights would perfectly understand.
     
    Just sayin.

  • my guess is he’ll end up being carried out of office feet first rather than willingly giving it up. 

    >>> Fine here.  The world can use a few more cautionary tales about how the leftist utopia is a mirage

    • I’m actually being evil and hoping he’s escorted out with a 105mm HE round from an MBT.  Quick, and disastrous.
      Oh, that’s right probably using Russian gear – make it a 125mm HEF round.
      I guess there still might be feet to carry out.

  • I’m an American and have been living in Venezuela for the last 17 years. I like to that I came to Venezuela in the year 6BC ( Before Chavez ). The political situation here is complicated by years of bad government prior to Chavez. I could write a very lengthy blog on the subject but I won’t. Instead I recommend you check out http://www.caracaschronicals.com/mode/2645  Francisco Toro, a professor at Wesleyan University, along with the help of some friends has developed an election prediction tool for the up coming legislative elections in September. What you will see is that the model takes into account the horrific gerrymandering of districts  that was carried out this past Spring by the Chavez controlled National Election Commission. According to the model, if the popular vote is split 50/50, Chavismo will control the Assembly by a wide margin. The opposition needs about 52.4% of the popular vote to break even on the seats in the Assembly. Although the popularity of Chavez has fallen drastically, the popularity of the opposition is nothing to write home about. More importantly, even if the oppositions should take control of the Assembly, they will find themselves with an empty sack. The current Assembly approved a few moths back the creation of some thing called “consejos cumanales” ( communal councils ) throughout the country which will be subordinate to a ” consejo federal”, none of which are elected and all will be under the direct authority of the President. This gives Chavez the ability ” under law” to completely circumvent the mayors, the governors, and the Assembly if he so chooses. Needless to say, I’m not optimistic about the immediate future of my adopted country. 

  • As usual, you dense rightie gringos are completely loco. Our leader, the wonderful Hugo Chavez, thinks like me and is putting completely successful programs in place constantly. Thinking like yours is being pushed aside, literally, as we journey towards leftist utopia.

    I’m a left libertarian who knows that markets don’t adjust themselves, there’s no reason to believe they do, so the wise hand of socialist government must guide the market. I decree it.

    I worked in Caracas as a political flunky in the 1980s, and I understand Venezualan politics. These days, I love my position as a teacher of political science in a small university in Punto Fijo, where I use my advanced degrees to explain the realities of politics to young, fresh-faced college students. And what I is not either indoctrination, so stop saying that.

    Yes, I’m sure we are on the right road. I’m confident Senor Chavez will win another term, and … excuse me, have to answer the door.

    —-

    Umm, I’ll be back later. These fine uniformed gentlemen at the door claim I’m needed down at their police station to explain something about what I said in my class about Chavez. Probably that small joke about his daughter Rosines. I’m sure it’s all a misunderstanding. I’ll be back later to continue to explain to you dense rightie Americanos how wrong you are about everything.

  • It is safer in Baghdad than Caracas

    There is a lesson here for lefties (not that they’ll learn it) that lies in a rather obvious difference between the two cities.  One is the headquarters of a “progressive” politician who has punished businesses, censored / eliminated “hate speech” in his national media, and has instituted fair economic policies.  The other has been the scene of operation of American soldiers.

    More than 90 percent of murders go unsolved, without a single arrest, Mr. Briceño-León said. But cases against Mr. Chavez’s critics — including judges, dissident generals and media executives — are increasingly common.

    I’ve often wondered what it must be like to be a policeman in a despotic country.  I guess this answers the question: it is IMPOSSIBLE to be a real policeman.  Rather, one can only be an armed, uniformed thug for the regime.  I can only suppose that Venezuelans and other people living in similar despotisms must cast covetous eyes toward the police forces in the United States, Britain, Japan, Israel, India, and other (more or less) democratic nations, where the police motto is “to protect and to serve” THE PEOPLE, not the hoodlums at the top.