In a rare public illustration of the depths of corruption in Venezuela's security forces, authorities arrested 13 members of the investigative police for alleged involvement in kidnapping.
As El Nacional reported, the national police detained the members of the investigative police force, known as the CICPC, in a district of Caracas. Those arrested included the CICPC head for that district, a supervisor, and five detectives. Venezuela's attorney general has since said it was 17 people arrested and that there are six other warrants pending.
The accused allegedly kidnapped a businessman and demanded 300,000 bolivares (about $47,000, according to the official exchange rate) in ransom money, which was paid off in the police station. The kidnap victim was also reportedly held in police offices.
The head of Venezuela's police reform commission, Freddy Bernal, said that authorities have identified two other people who were kidnapped by the CICPC unit in question.
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The political and economic situation in Venezuela looks perilous, and this may either bury the country's long-running security issues or bring them to the forefront. Opponents of the government, including those within President Nicolas Maduro's own party, may seek to use insecurity -- which has made Venezuela one of the most violent countries on the planet -- and corruption cases to discredit and weaken Maduro.
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Maduro, meanwhile, may move to use the possibility of unrest to strengthen his hold on security forces and avoid pushing through with police reform efforts. The state has already deployed the police and military to oversee Venezuelans queuing up for groceries. And commission head Bernal commented that the reform commission intended to "intervene" in nine municipal police forces across the country, but added that they were waiting for Maduro to return from his trip overseas before taking further action.
The involvement of Venezuela's security forces in illegal activities like kidnapping, extortion, and drug trafficking has already been well documented. The CICPC recently became embroiled in a violent confrontation last year with armed civilian militias in Caracas, which led Maduro to purge the force's top leadership.