The killing of a Chilean diplomat's daughter by Venezuelan police has provoked outrage and further highlighted problems with the security forces, even as crime rates skyrocket.
Karen Berendique was with her older brother and a friend when the vehicle ran through an unmarked police checkpoint in the city of Maracaibo. The police officers opened fire, killing the 19-year-old, daughter of the Chilean consul in the city. She was hit by three bullets. Twelve policemen have been detained and are under investigation in connection with incident.
Driver Fernando Berendique did not stop the car because he thought it was a robbery attempt. The police apparently had not laid out cones on the road to warn drivers, nor were there lights flashing on their vehicles.
In November, the Chilean consul in Caracas, Juan Carlos Fernandez, was shot in the leg after his car was hijacked. In January, Mexico's ambassador in Caracas was kidnapped, offering more examples of the endemic insecurity in Venezuela.
InSight Crime Analysis
There is a great deal of mistrust of Venezuelan police, both of local forces and of the national police, set up by President Hugo Chavez in 2009 to fight spiraling crime. According to the count of some NGOs, 2011 was the country's most violent year in recent history.
During a visit to Caracas last year, InSight Crime interviewed a former police official who stated that anything up to 70 percent of kidnappings in the Venezuelan capital had police involvement. He said that many people do not bother to report crimes to the police, fearing that in doing so they would actually be calling those who perpetrate many of those crimes.
Caracas is now the most dangerous city in South America. Murders, robberies and kidnappings have all increased exponentially since Chavez took power in 1998. This high-profile killing of a diplomat's daughter may act as a lightning rod for complaints about the police and the deterioration in security, which is already one of the principal issues in the upcoming presidential elections. While Chavez is running again, his recent return from Cuba after yet more cancer treatment has created huge political uncertainty, just six months before the vote.