Homicides have soared from fewer than 6,000 in Chávez's first year in office to 13,156 last year, according to official government statistics collected and released by private research organizations. That amounts to a homicide rate of 48 killings per 100,000 people, among the highest in the world and more than in neighboring Colombia, which suffers from a slow-burning internal conflict.
Here in the capital, the rate is even higher — 130 homicides per 100,000 people, translating last year to a total of 2,710 killings.
Compare the 48 per 100,000 to the US murder rate which we're told is way to high and makes us one of the more violent western countries. Our rate is 5.6 per 100,000.
Critics see this as an issue which may help bring down Chávez in the next election. The reason isn't just the murder rate. That's a result. The reason, say critics, are the Chávez government's actions and policies:
Critics of Chávez , among them prominent opposition politicians, say his government has contributed to the problem with rhetoric that accentuates class warfare. It has also armed citizen militias and radical political groups.
"Here, violence is not controlled. It is either fomented on purpose or is allowed to take place," said Mónica Fernández, a former judge who is director of Penal Forum, which analyzes legal issues.
Of course we've recently experienced what a crisis of any type can do to sway the vote in a particular direction. When the public's to fear was national security, John McCain was doing well. As soon as we had the financial meltdown and the economy took the top spot, McCain dropped like a rock and Obama took the lead.
With a murder rate of 48 per 100,000 (and the level of crime that goes with it), guess what the major concern of the Venezuelan public is:
Fifty-six percent of those recently polled by Datanalisis, a Caracas polling firm, said crime was their top concern, ahead of inflation and economic problems. And a poll by a well-known sociologist who studies crime, Roberto Briceño-León, showed that 64 percent feared being attacked in the streets.
Chávez and the government essentially ignore the problem and dispute the numbers:
For years, the government has ignored the problem, even as violent crime became a staple of news reports. Some Venezuelans took to the streets to protest the state's inability to protect them. Chávez, although he speaks publicly almost every day, rarely mentions the crime rate. With criticism of government inaction mounting earlier this year, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, then interior and justice minister, announced in a news conference that homicides had plummeted 27 percent in the first half of the year. "You have to be very careful with the figures," he explained. "It all depends on who handles the numbers and what are the variables that are taken into account."
Of course for 3 years, the government has kept the numbers secret. Why publicize bad news and hand the opposition a propaganda coup? However crime research organizations and criminologists have been able to track the information through law enforcement agencies.
The obvious point is Chávez has created this monster by arming citizen militias and radical political groups. It is one of his methods of consolidating power and stifling dissent. It also appears that these groups may be spiraling out of control. Chávez is either going to have to do what is necessary to bring them back under control and stop the violence or he's going to continue to ignore the problem and pretend it doesn't exist (hey, I forgot, there's a 3rd option - blame it on the US). Either way, his power and support suffer in the process.
Wow! Do you mean that when you allow an unknown far left wing nutjob to install his Socialist-Marxist policies on a country desiring "change" and "hope" that you get a country turning on itself and becoming a laughingstock in the process?
I didn’t realize things got to bad so fast in Venezuela. Don’t watch the BBC, because they love to show happy, patriotic Venezuelans saying how good the country has become under Chavez.
It sort of reminds me of the doofi who voted for The Clown™ here in the US a few weeks ago - these shiny happy dipsh!ts sound as stupid as the Venezuelans, even as their rights are being taken away and their economy continues to plunge into the hole.
Maybe this is a sign of things to come. If so, hold on to your seat belt.