Authorities in Colombia have reported an 18 percent drop in national homicides in the first four months of 2014, while Venezuela police figures for this time period highlight a deteriorating security situation, a mark of the divergent experiences of each country in recent years.
According to unofficial figures from Venezuela's national police agency (CICPC) accessed by El Universal, the country saw 4,680 homicides between January and April 2014 -- an average of 39 violent deaths per day. Based on these figures and a population count of about 28.9 million, the AFP projected a 2014 annual homicide rate of 48.5 per 100,000.
This rate represents an apparent drop on that cited in the recently released United Nations Global Homicide Report, which labeled Venezuela the world’s second deadliest country with a 2012 rate of 53.7. However, it paints a security picture very different from that of neighboring Colombia.
As reported by El Tiempo, Colombia's total of 4,208 murders in the first four months of 2014 is 952 less than the corresponding period the previous year. With an estimated population of 47.6 million, this figure would mean a projected year-end homicide rate of 26.5 per 100,000, compared to the UN-reported 2012 rate of 30.8.
The country's second-largest city, Medellin, saw a 40 percent drop in homicides, while murders fell about 22 percent in the third-largest city, Cali, compared with the first four months of 2012. The northern cities of Cucuta and Santa Marta also saw notable declines.
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Venezuela's homicide statistics are wildly inconsistent -- NGO the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV) reported a 2013 rate of 79 per 100,000, while the government reported just 39 per 100,000. Based on this, and Venezuelan officials' desire to mask the reality, it is possible the 2014 figures are much higher than reported.
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While homicide rates have been climbing since late President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998, the security situation has become increasingly chaotic since his death. This has come to a head in 2014, with a rash of anti-government protests. The police focus on quelling riots has provided a perfect environment for organized crime to flourish both in capital Caracas, and in border cities like San Cristobal.
Meanwhile, the improvements in Colombia's situation are impressive, but are at best only partially attributable to security force efforts. The massive reduction in Medellin's homicide rate can be largely chalked up to a 2013 criminal pact in the city, while criminal groups in Cali also signed a similar deal, albeit without encompassing all of the city's main criminal protagonists.