Citing government figures, a prominent opposition leader in Venezuela has said the country's impunity rate hovers at about 98 percent, an assertion that will likely feed rising perceptions of insecurity.
Congresswoman Delsa Solorzano -- also the vice president of opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) -- presented the findings at a charged March 30 press conference. She lambasted the Attorney General’s Office for persecuting political dissidents but failing to prosecute crimes and human rights violations.
According to Solorzano -- who said she based the estimates on an annual crime report by the Attorney General's Office -- last year the impunity rate stood at around 98 percent.
— Un Nuevo Tiempo (@partidoUNT) March 31, 2015
Human rights violations: Out of 8,049 cases of human rights violations reported in 2014, only 105 ever made it to trial, Solorzano said.
Numbers aren't available for how many of these cases actually resulted in convictions -- the figure traditionally used when calculating an impunity rate -- but based on the available numbers, this implies that 98 percent of all human rights cases in Venezuela are never resolved, Solorzano said.
Corruption: Of the 12,319 corruption cases registered by the Attorney General's Office last year, only 304 made it to trial, for an impunity rate of 97.5 percent, Solorzano said. She cited one recent case involving a company that received $80 million in commissions to build a metro line in Caracas -- and never did so.
Kidnapping: Of 599 reported kidnappings, only 10 went to trial, an impunity rate of 98.3 percent, Solorzano said.
Common Crimes: The Attorney General's Office registered 351,321 cases of what Solorzano called “common crimes,” which include homicide, robbery, assault, and rape. Only 5,426 of these went to trial, resulting in an impunity rate of 98.4 percent, according to Solorzano.
InSight Crime Analysis
Solorzano clearly meant to aggressively attack the Maduro administration on security and human rights issues -- not areas where Maduro has a very strong record, to say the least. Political motivations aside, if the figures are accurate, they are an important glimpse into official Venezuelan crime statistics, which aren't widely available to the general public after the government stopped releasing them.
There are two reasons to doubt the numbers: the obvious political gain that overreporting the impunity rate would give an opposition party, and the government’s own problematic history of manipulating statistics. Still, even with these caveats, general dysfunction in the Venezuelan justice system makes a sky-high impunity rate quite plausible.
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Since Venezuela stopped consistently releasing crime statistics in 2005, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV), a network of independent researchers, has stepped in to fill the gap when it comes to homicide data. One of the group’s researchers told InSight Crime in January there were 24,981 violent deaths in 2014, a number that Solorzano also reported at the press conference. According to the OVV, the impunity rate for murders in 2014 was 91 percent.
High perceptions of insecurity in Venezuela have also helped politicize the debate over the release of crime and justice statistics in Venezuela. Regardless of the accuracy of Solorzano's figures, it ultimately appears as though the Venezuelan government cannot convince citizens that crime and violence are under control, and opposition parties like the UNT can trumpet the issue for political gain.