HomeNewsAnalysisRawFeed: Examining the Human Toll of Venezuela's Soaring Crime Rate
ANALYSIS

RawFeed: Examining the Human Toll of Venezuela's Soaring Crime Rate

VENEZUELA / 14 MAR 2011 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

As both Venezuela's government and the opposition battle over the significance of the country's rising murder rate, neither side seems to be focusing on the street-level factors of the violence. A report from the British daily the Guardian, however, sheds light on the gritty underworld of Venezuela's street gangs.

Violence and insecurity have plagued Venezuela for years, so much so that the government stopped publishing crime statistics in 2005 in an effort to stem criticism from the opposition. Despite the lack of official data, some civil society organizations in the country have presented their own alarming statistics about homicides. Last August, the independent Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) alleged that the number of murders in the country had nearly quadrupled during the course of President Hugo Chavez's eleven years in power, going from 4,550 in 1999 to 16,047 in 2009.

In early February, however, as reported by Spanish news agency EFE, the government announced that the murder rate for 2010 was 48 homicides for every 100,000 people. While lower than the Observatory's estimate of 57 per 100,000, the rate is still higher than that of both Mexico and Colombia, making Venezuela one of the most violent countries in Latin America and the world.

On top of the rise in homicides, Venezuela has now far overtaken Colombia, once known as the "kidnapping capital of the world," in the total number of reported kidnappings. According to a special report by Venezuela’s El Nacional, kidnapping has increased by 430 percent since 1999.

Despite the gravity of this development, Venezuela's crime rate has turned into something of a political football, with both the government and the various opposition movements attempting to frame it according to their interests. As such, critical analyses of the criminal actors involved in Venezuela are difficult to come by. That’s why the Guardian’s recent report on 'malandros' (street gangsters) in Caracas stands out as an example of in-depth investigation into the dynamics of street crime in the country.

In it, Guardian reporter Rory Carroll details an ongoing conflict between rival gangs in El Consejo, a shantytown of 50,000 on the edge of Caracas. The battle was apparently sparked by a case of teenage bullying, and has waged for eight months. Seven youths have died in the fighting, and the violence has resisted even the strongest of local gang rehabilitation programs.

Although both sides appear to recognize the futility of the conflict, it is fueled by a lack of economic opportunity combined with a strong sense of neighborhood identity. Even for those who attend school, well-paying jobs are scarce, which provides little incentive to those weighing a gangster lifestyle against a life free of crime.

As Carroll notes, this situation results in two paths: "one filled with danger, good money, prestige and the chance to 'defend' the community. The other filled with long hours, a minimum wage and a lesser but still real chance of getting killed just because some kid flicked a possible piece of popcorn. Which would you choose?"

The full report can be read here, and a video accompanying the report is embedded below. Warning: this video contains images of graphic injuries and gunshot wounds.

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.

Tags

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

COLOMBIA / 3 OCT 2022

Colombian guerrillas evolved from seeing Venezuela as a safe place to retreat to seeing it as a full-blown expansion of…

COLOMBIA / 10 JUL 2023

Iván Márquez, former guerrilla commander, has reportedly died in Venezuela, with his death likely having far-reaching consequences for Colombia’s “Total…

EXTORTION / 21 APR 2023

As organized crime increases in Venezuela, more people and businesses are falling victim to extortion carried out by opportunists.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Contributes Expertise Across the Board 

22 SEP 2023

This week InSight Crime investigators Sara García and María Fernanda Ramírez led a discussion of the challenges posed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” plan within urban contexts. The…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Cited in New Colombia Drug Policy Plan

15 SEP 2023

InSight Crime’s work on emerging coca cultivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Venezuela was cited in the Colombian government’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Discusses Honduran Women's Prison Investigation

8 SEP 2023

Investigators Victoria Dittmar and María Fernanda Ramírez discussed InSight Crime’s recent investigation of a massacre in Honduras’ only women’s prison in a Twitter Spaces event on…

THE ORGANIZATION

Human Trafficking Investigation Published in Leading Mexican Newspaper

1 SEP 2023

Leading Mexican media outlet El Universal featured our most recent investigation, “The Geography of Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border,” on the front page of its August 30…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime's Coverage of Ecuador Leads International Debate

25 AUG 2023

This week, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime, was interviewed by La Sexta, a Spanish television channel, about the situation of extreme violence and insecurity in Ecuador…