According to Venezuela’s interior minister, homicides and kidnappings have decreased significantly in 2014. But his refusal to release concrete figures and the Venezuelan government’s reputation for manipulating statistics cast doubt on his claims.
In an interview with El Universal, interior affairs and justice minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres stated that homicides have fallen by 18 percent and kidnappings by 60 percent in the first 34 weeks of the year compared to the same period in 2013. Rodriguez also said that 76 percent of the country’s homicides could be attributed to conflicts between rival criminal groups or between criminal groups and security forces.
Rodriguez refused to give El Universal concrete numbers to back his claims, stating that political rivals or the media could misuse the figures in order to increase perceptions of Venezuela’s insecurity.
According to Rodriguez, the Venezuelan government has implemented a number of security initiatives – including a citizen security program, a disarmament program, and the installation of security cameras – with the goal of reducing the country’s homicide rate to just 10 homicides per every 100,000 inhabitants in four years.
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The Venezuelan government is known for manipulating its statistical data. The government claimed that the country’s 2013 homicide rate was 39 per 100,000 inhabitants, in contrast to estimates released by reputable non-governmental organization the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV), which maintain that the rate is around 79 per 100,000.
Rodriguez’s claims are made even more dubious by the fact that Venezuela has been experiencing a period of intense political turmoil since anti-government protests began in February. The unrest has led to a security crisis in the country, with government-backed militias, known as “colectivos,” accused of killing protesters, and has created ideal conditions for criminal groups to expand their operations now that security forces are distracted elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the disarmament program cited by Rodriguez has failed to produce the desired results, with less than one percent of illegal weapons seized or voluntarily handed in a year after the new disarmament law went into effect. The failures of this law and the fact that the security camera program has only been implemented in two districts in capital city Caracas mean there are no major security developments that could explain an 18 percent reduction in homicides.
Without concrete numbers to back them up, Rodriguez’s claims that 76 percent of homicides are related to clashes between criminal groups or with security forces are similarly unconvincing.
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