Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered the deployment of more than 3,000 National Guard troops onto the streets in an effort to curb violent crime in the capital, Caracas, and surrounding areas.
Around 3,200 soldiers are being deployed, according to General Miguel Vivas Landino, the commander in charge of the People's Guard, a security force created by President Chavez. The People’s Guard was established to “reinforce the fight against crime and to give more life to our people," Chavez told Venezuelan National Radio.
The troops of the People’s Guard will patrol the streets of Caracas and various areas in the states of Miranda and Vargas. They will be charged with tackling violent crime and providing operational support to police and community groups working to eradicate street-level drug-dealing and anti-social behavior.
Chavez is attempting to take a hard line on rising crime levels in the country, with an eye on the October 2012 presidential elections.
The decision to send troops onto the streets comes only days after a debate between candidates of the opposition Table of Democratic Unity (MUD) party, during which Chavez was heavily criticized for failing to ensure public safety during his 12 years in office. It was claimed during the debate that, in this time, some 123,000 people have been murdered in Venezuela.
According to analysis carried out by NGO the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV), the murder rate in Venezuela has more than quadrupled since 1999. Although the Venezuelan government no longer publishes homicide statistics, the OVV estimates that the 2010 per capita homicide rate stood at 57 per 100,000, making Venezuela one of the most violent countries in South America.
According to the OVV, this figure is set to rise to 60 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants for 2011, which would represent more than 19,000 murders in the country this year.