The Venezuelan government has confirmed that over 16,000 people were killed in 2012, while over 2,000 were murdered during the first two months of 2013, pointing to little letup in the ongoing violence.
As EL Universal reports, figures released by national police agency the CICPC counted 2,576 murders in Venezuela during January and February 2013.
Meanwhile, Vice President Nicolas Maduro told Venezuela's National Assembly last week that there had been 16,072 recorded homicides in 2012, representing a rate of 56 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. However, as El Universal reports, an unofficial source at the CICPC said that Venezuela actually saw 21,600 homicides last year, a figure about 25 percent higher than Maduro's.
Maduro's numbers are significantly lower than those published by non-governmental organization (NGO) the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, which put the 2012 murder rate at 73 per 100,000. However, even the lower figure cited by Maduro is the highest ever recorded in the country, and the second-highest rate in the world.
InSight Crime Analysis
Violence has risen sharply in Venezuela since President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998, with murder rates doubling or tripling over a decade, according to different figures. As Insight Crime has reported, a mix of internal and external factors are to blame. Widespread impunity, the ubiquity of firearms, and weak institutions have all fueled crime and violence, as has the increased amount of cocaine shipments flowing through the country, controlled by corrupt elements of the police and military known as the Cartel of the Suns.
Each successive year produces another record homicide figure and the January/February police statistics suggest 2013 will be no different. It is also difficult to imagine how Venezuela could even begin to tackle endemic violence, given the uncertainties facing the political future of Chavez's government. So far, it is impossible to tell whether a government headed by Maduro -- who according to one poll would easily win a presidential vote should Chavez pass away -- could implement a more effective security policy, as there have been little indication so far what Maduro's policies would be.