A leaked report offers a rare, albeit incomplete glimpse at the Venezuelan government's official homicide data, with levels now among some of the highest in the world, something which the authorities have sought to hide.
The numbers reportedly come from an unpublished study by the Ministry for Interior, Justice, and Peace, seen by Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.
The report identifies the ten most violent municipalities in the country, highlighted in red in the map below. Eight out of ten of them are capitals of their respective departments, indicative of how Venezuela's violence remains primarily an urban phenomenon. Unsurprisingly, the most violent municipality is in capital city Caracas, with a reported 1,373 homicides last year.
The Ministry survey also reportedly states that there were a total of 13,843 homicides in Venezuela in 2014 -- a lower figure than that reported by non-governmental organization the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, which found there were 16,549 homicides reported in Venezuela and nearly 25,000 violent deaths in total.
However, the government survey only looks at 120 of 335 municipalities -- about 36 percent of the country -- and does not count police killings or killings in prisons, according to El Nacional.
Five out of the ten municipalities with the highest homicide rate per every 100,000 people are based in Monagas department, the government survey reportedly says. A police official told El Nacional that this is likely because of the number of "peace zones" established here -- sectors where community watch groups are meant to replace the police.
The municipalities which saw the biggest increase in homicides between 2013 and 2014 are mostly peripheral to larger cities. These areas may have seen a jump in murders due to lack of state presence, and the arrival of more people fleeing Venezuela's violent cities, El Nacional reported.
InSight Crime Analysis
As the Venezuelan government does not publicly release information about homicides, El Nacional's reporting is a rare glimpse at the official numbers -- although they are obviously incomplete, and there is no information on what methodology was used to compile them. In the past, government officials have openly admitted that the official policy is to keep crime data secret, until there are more flattering numbers to report.
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The numbers reported by El Nacional are nevertheless indicative of the high levels of violence that continue to afflict the country, exacerbated by ongoing political and economic tensions.
Additionally, if there is indeed an overlap between Venezuela's "peace zones" and areas with the highest homicide rate, this would be more damning evidence of a deeply flawed policy meant to address citizen distrust in police.
But areas with greater police presence are unlikely to be more peaceful, not just because of police corruption and extrajudicial killings, but because fear of chasing down criminals has made the police even more ineffectual. Killings of security personnel are on the rise in Venezuela, with 45 officers killed so far this year in Caracas alone, according to EFE.