HomeNewsBriefVenezuela Plans to Compensate Victims, as Violence Rate Soars
BRIEF

Venezuela Plans to Compensate Victims, as Violence Rate Soars

VENEZUELA / 24 MAY 2012 BY HANNAH STONE EN

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has announced a new security plan that would compensate victims of serious violence, following the lead of Mexico and Colombia.

The president spoke about the security plan, "A Todo Vida Venezuela," on television on Tuesday, reports El Universal. One of its six key points is to set up a national system for attention to victims of "serious intentional violence," including a registry of victims and a compensation scheme for survivors.

This will be rolled out in 79 "priority" municipalities of the country's total 335, though the president did not reveal which.

The plan also aims, among other things, to "transform" the prison and criminal justice systems, and to set up alternative conflict resolution mechanisms.

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The plan follows similar schemes to compensate victims of violence in Mexico and in neighboring Colombia, though it appears that, unlike in these countries, Venezuela plans to pay out to victims of common crime. Colombia's Victims Law, which was passed in June 2011, covers victims of violence by parties to the country's civil conflict, namely·the state, guerrillas and paramilitary groups. In Mexico, a Victims Law which was recently approved by both houses of Congress will compensate only the victims of organized crime.

Venezuela does not have a civil conflict like Colombia, or organized criminal groups as powerful and established as those in Mexico. Much of its violence is due to street crime, though some is linked to the deep political divisions in the country, and the growth of paramilitary-style organizations in some neighborhoods, especially in the capital city of Caracas.

The country is, however, currently suffering a rate of killings far higher than in present-day Mexico, and comparable to that of Colombia at the beginning of the 2000s, when the conflict was more intense. Last year, Venezuela saw some 67 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to Mexico's rate of less than 20 and Colombia's of around 30.

It will be interesting to see which municipalities are included in Chavez's proposed compensation scheme. If, as seems likely, they are areas of the highest violence, this could mean they include crucial election battlegrounds in Caracas and other major cities. The scheme comes just five months before the most fiercely contested election in Chavez's 13 years in power, and polls show that insecurity is one of the biggest concerns for voters.

However, a scheme to register and compensate victims could do something to help change the culture of violence in Venezuela. In a recent report, the Venezuelan Observatory on Violence (OVV) compared the country to a war zone, saying that violence had been legitimized as a way to resolve conflicts, due in part to the government's confrontational rhetoric. The proposal to register victims and create a system dedicated to helping them could be a step towards overcoming this.

Image, above, shows photos of women who have lost their sons or daughters to violence, posted around Caracas as part of a scheme to raise awareness of the human cost of the high murder rate.

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