HomeNewsAnalysisPolitical Uncertainty in Venezuela Feeds Crime and Violence
ANALYSIS

Political Uncertainty in Venezuela Feeds Crime and Violence

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 8 JAN 2013 BY JEREMY MCDERMOTT EN

The rumors of President Hugo Chavez's imminent death, and the jostling for position among his possible successors, are creating conditions in which crime and violence are flourishing and likely to do so through 2013.

As the Venezuelan president lies, apparently in terminal condition, in a Cuban hospital bed, the murder rate in Venezuela is likely to top more than 70 per 100,000.  This makes the Andean nation the most dangerous in South America, and one of the most dangerous in the world, superseded only by Honduras.

The violence is showing no sign of letting up in 2013. Already a policeman has been gunned down so that his weapon could be stolen, a trend seen throughout 2012. In the first six days of the year more than 75 murders were registered in Caracas alone. Venezuelan prisons are the most dangerous in the world. They are forming a new generation of criminals for an increasingly sophisticated national organized crime underworld.

InSight Crime Analysis

No matter who succeeds Chavez, the prospects in security terms are not encouraging. Chavez has anointed Nicholas Maduro as his vice president and heir apparent. A continuation of the current, disastrous, security policy would be expected under Maduro, a policy that has seen the murder rate almost quadruple.

The twisted priorities seen under the Chavez administrations were reinforced once again, when VP Maduro sent members of the National Guard this week into sugar packing plants to ensure there was no hoarding by companies, rather than deploying them into the more sensitive parts of Caracas, where the murder rate is believed to exceed 120 homicides per 100,000 of the population.

Also waiting in the wings is National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, a former army officer, known to have strong ties with the Venezuelan Armed Forces, and potential links to organized crime within the military, the so-called "Cartel of the Suns" (Cartel de los Soles).

Should new presidential elections be called, and an opposition candidate win power, the security consequences, at least in the short term, could be even more dire. The army, the National Guard, the National Police, and the judiciary have all been heavily politicized during 13 years of Chavez government. An opposition president may well find that his orders do not travel far outside of the presidential palace of Miraflores.

An opposition president will also have to face heavily armed pro-Chavez militias, not only in Caracas, but in the countryside, where the left-wing guerrilla group the Bolivarian Liberation Forces (FBL) has up to 4,000 members, spread across nine of the country's 23 states.

The likely chaos will not only have repercussions for Venezuela, but also the neighboring Colombia. Colombian rebel groups are estimated to have up to 1,000 fighters in Venezuela, as well as many of their top leaders and a large percentage of their logistics support. While cooperation between Venezuela and Colombia has improved since president Juan Manuel Santos took office in August 2010, the current lack of leadership, and clear orders to the military, has put the Venezuelan Armed Forces into a holding pattern along the frontier, where corrupt elements continue to feed the Marxist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) with weapons, munitions and medical supplies. There are also strong indications that elements of the military are facilitating, if not actively taking part in drug trafficking on the frontier.

The FARC are currently in peace talks with the government, and the ELN waiting for a seat at the table. The chaos in Venezuelan strengthens their position, ensuring they have a rearguard area where leaders can meet, campaigns can be planned, new units can be trained and equipped, and attacks can be launched.

The political and security situation in Venezuela is likely to further deteriorate during 2013, with potentially grave consequences for violence and the development of organized crime in both Colombia and Venezuela.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 19 OCT 2021

Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro's aggressive reaction to the extradition of accused money launderer and ally Álex Saab – who appeared…

COLECTIVOS / 25 JUN 2021

El Coqui seemed to be comfortable. Caracas’ foremost gang boss had, for several years, dominated the sprawling neighborhood of Cota…

COLOMBIA / 2 FEB 2022

Venezuela’s oil industry is beginning to make a muted recovery and the country’s black markets are reacting fast, with domestic…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…