HomeNewsBriefExtrajudicial Killings Accompany Venezuela Security Raids
BRIEF

Extrajudicial Killings Accompany Venezuela Security Raids

HUMAN RIGHTS / 12 SEP 2016 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Experts say extrajudicial killings have jumped alarmingly since the Venezuelan government began a new anti-crime initiative last year, further suggesting that security forces could be involved in death squad-like activity.

Inti Rodríguez, coordinator of the Venezuelan human rights organization PROVEA, told El Nuevo Herald that "more than 700 extrajudicial executions have been committed" since Operation Liberation and Protection of the People (Operación de Liberación y Protección del Pueblo - OLP) began in July 2015.

"We are talking about 450 such executions so far this year, and 245 last year," said Rodríguez, adding that the OLP security forces "are out to kill."

Originally billed as a citizen security initiative by the Venezuelan government, the stated purpose of the OLP is to to reclaim territories controlled by criminal gangs and other armed groups by deploying heavily-armed police and military units to those areas. However, the effort has been marred by human rights concerns since its inception.

The 245 deaths linked to OLP operations that PROVEA documented in 2015 represent a 150 percent increase over the average number of deaths at the hands of Venezuelan security forces in the last 25 years, Efecto Cucuyo reported. (See InSight Crime's graphic showing the geographic distribution of OLP operations below)

16-09-12-OLP-EN

According to Javier Ignacio Mayorca, an InSight Crime contributor and expert on crime in Venezuela, police have been given broad leeway during OLP operations. "Every time they launch an OLP there are 15 or 16 deaths during supposed confrontations," Mayorca told El Nuevo Herald.

Mayorca likened the phenomenon to past instances of "social cleansing" in Colombia by "extermination groups."

"A police official rarely emerges with even a scratch from these alleged confrontations," he said.

Echoing such statements, Marco Antonio Ponce, director of the Venezuelan Conflict Observatory (Observatorio Venezolano de la Conflictiviad), told El Nuevo Herald that OLP operations have served to "institutionalize" extrajudicial killings by Venezuelan security forces, resulting in the murders of suspected criminals and residents in poor areas.

Instead of being a remedy for violence and crime, Ponce said OLP operations "have only brought about more violence."

InSight Crime Analysis

Citizen insecurity in Venezuela has been steadily worsening as the country's political and economic turmoil has grown. And critics say the OLP initiative has failed to achieve its goals, instead generating a number of human rights abuses.

For instance, Inti Rodríguez's comments follow the April release of a report published by Human Rights Watch and PROVEA, titled "Unchecked Power: Police and Military Raids in Low-Income and Immigrant Communities in Venezuela," which documented 20 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings by security forces during OLP raids in 2015. Eyewitness testimony suggests a number of these deaths were falsely registered as cases of armed criminals being killed during "confrontations" with police.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Rights 

Nonetheless, it is difficult to disentangle the government's motives for heavy-handed security actions. For instance, a recent report by Venezuelan media organization RunRun.es documented the involvement of armed pro-government groups known as colectivos in OLP operations, suggesting the government may be using anti-crime raids as a pretext to stifle protest and silence an increasingly mobilized opposition.

There is, however, an alternative -- though not mutually exclusive -- explanation. Criminals groups have increasingly targeted Venezuelan security personnel in order to steal their weapons and as a response to heightened security pressure. Given Venezuela's over-burdened judicial system, security forces seeking vengeance may simply deem it more efficient to dispense their own brand of justice. 

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

PRISONS / 8 AUG 2012

Over 500 inmates have died in Venezuela's prisons in the year since the government set up the new Prison Ministry,…

MEXICO / 10 OCT 2016

The Mexican government's most recent annual survey of crime victimization rates and perceptions of security shows little improvement -- and…

COLOMBIA / 21 MAY 2019

A violent criminal gang known as "La Línea" has triggered several deadly shootouts in battles with other armed groups seeking…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…