Sunday, 1 November 2009

Venezuela, police, prevention and intelligence

Map 1: murder in Carabobo in October 2009. Source: Notitarde report here, based on police reports (CIPC)

Every single point in the first Carabobo map represents a murder committed in October 2009: two babies playing in a slum shot down while two drug bands were fighting each other, a young man who was shot down while driving on his bike in Guacara too late, several people shot dead when a man under drugs decided to get into a party in one of the many slums in Southern Valencia and take revenge because of some issue or no issue at all.

You can see here (1MB file, it takes some seconds) an animation of murder in this region from January 2008 until last October. Actually, the murders in any municipality were much more concentrated than the map shows. We could make fairly good predictions if we had all the details police agents can supply.

How we got used to crime and the World does not care

The news about violent crime in Venezuela have become so repetitive that the whole situation has been banalized. People have become used to it, sort of. The news about the situation are almost like weather forecasts in Britain: 32 murders this weekend, 40, 41, 34...

The government uses the silliest strategies to minimize the issue: crime is caused by the social injustice inherent to capitalism (sure and chavismo has been in power for almost 11 years now), the government is doing something about it (right, murder rate has gone up from 19 murders per 100000 in 99 to over 50* now), false statistics (using one week as reference for one year or assuming there are no ups and downs), referring to crime everywhere (Hugo in Bbc saying "even in Italy a politician was killed recently) or drama (how can the opposition use the suffering of people to do politics?). The Venezuelan government stopped sending murder stats to United Nations in 2002 when the trend became too clear to show. It still reports on "crimes" in general as it knows it can manipulate more easily the numbers of "crimes" as opposed to those of murders.

Meanwhile crime is without control and many of the best professionals leave Venezuela precisely because of that (political mobbing and economic factors come next). The opposition keeps showing the numbers it can get from the police. The problem is that most people in Venezuela don't know how night life is in Santiago, in Madrid...heck, even in Bogotá or Buenos Aires. People outside Venezuela know crime in Latin America is bad, so they assume it is a little bit worse in Venezuela...sad, but well, it is a Latino thing, isn't it?

chart: murder rate per country. Venezuela is in red. Other South American countries are in yellow. Based on Wikipedia stats.


What can we do?

1) The opposition needs to inform people not just about crime in Venezuela, but about how crime is in Venezuela now compared to what it was earlier on and what crime in Venezuela now is compared to the rest of the world. As you can see from the first chart, Venezuela (in red) is one of the countries with the highest murder rate on Earth. Only Honduras, Sierra Leone and Jamaica are worse off. Venezuela is by far the most dangerous country in South America. I coloured the other South American countries in yellow.

How can the opposition inform better about the situation? People should forget the TV. Awful Globovision can be seen by less than 30% of the population anyway. Students should go to bus stations, to the underground, to the city centre, to the village and distribute the information in cheap flyers.

2) The opposition must publicly challenge the government over and over again to have an open debate about crime (and other issues). We know the government rejects any debate. We know the president does not meet journalists who could ask real questions (only state journalists who ask about children and favourite food or badly informed international "stars" such as Larry King, who never get deep into anything). The opposition has already asked the government for a debate, but it has given up fast. It thinks there is no use on insistng. I disagree. It matters a lot. Venezuela has never really known real debates and it needs them or at least it needs to know it needs them. We should demand them time after time. It is a shame the only person who really tried to challenge Hugo into a debate was Peruvian writer Vargas Llosa.

I believe we should publicly demand open, fair debates with international mediators. The government will have to give in or show to the general public it is afraid. We are actually addressing all Venezuelans through that challenge: us, the minority that still believes in the comandante and the large group of those who are nibs, who remain indifferent and think they can only shrug shoulders.

3) The opposition needs to choose shadow ministers as Britain does: politicians who take the time and show the brain power to analyse very specific issues and tell people about their ideas for Venezuela. It does not matter some of those ideas may be snatched by the government. Most probably the government will not "copy" what we propose, but if it does: so much the better for Venezuela. And anyway: we can make sure people know who proposed things in the first place.

4) Venezuelan mathematicians, geographers, sociologists, economists, security experts and other specialists should meet and discuss in public their proposals. The task is complex, very complex, but it is not rocket science. We really don't need a expert from the US/Spain/cuba/X who gives some agent a course about "the magic solution". It is not that I exclude using foreign experts, but above all we need to think for ourselves based on the best people we already have, on the models we have read about and on open debates. That is the only way we can get a sustainable plan that lasts one government or stays only in one region. Among other things, we can develop models about where crime is more likely to take place based on a systematic reporting of crime and studies carried out by all kinds of specialists working together. As you can see from some of the charts here, we can actually know that Valencia municipality will have about 90 murders this month and Diego Ibarra municipality some 9 this very month if nothing else is done and we know December will be much worse (we could predict the number of murders per square km very precisely, actually). I believe a digitalized system managed by experts can produce fair models about the specific streets and times where serious crimes are more likely to happen. Those models can be used to tell police agents and above all social agents where to act and when.

If the police force just goes on working as it does now, if the social workers in that municipality do what they do now and nothing more, if there are no libraries, sport facilities, hospitals and above all real jobs, things won't improve. Our experts need to get into the nitty-gritty at all those things and demand publicly for solutions to be implemented: for jobs, for health, for education, for general social problems, for drug abuse and for crime prevention through the use of cops.

5) Inform Venezuelans about the crime situation not just with absolute numbers, but taking into account the world context, so that the poor know the current state of Venezuela is far from normal even in South America.

6) Discuss publicly about where criminals are getting the weapons from and take actions to prevent them from doing that.

7) Demand a real transformation of the security forces within a specific time frame. The Venezuelan police sucks. It sucks big time. A Venezuelan policeman is 150 TIMES more likely to be a criminal than an average Venezuelan citizen. Among other things, the government must

  • require an ever higher education level from police candidates
  • increase the salary of police agents so that the ratio to the salary of Venezuelan deputies is similar to the ratio in Spain or Italy (right now the "Socialist" Venezuelan deputies earn net more than Europeans but police agents earn almonds
  • increase the number of police agents per 1000 inhabitants to some normal ratio (use the money Venezuela uses in Russian tanks and presents to that effect
  • limit the amount of police agents that are used as body guards for politicians to less than 5% of the force (now over 50% are used to protect our big politicos)
  • force the police to digitalize the key data about crimes for every region and use it for crime prevention both at local and national level
  • force the heads of the police to be accountable to the minister of Justice and force the Minister of Justice to declare at the National Assembly at least once every third month about the progress done
  • demand that the minister of Justice be a person with a clean record and not the thugs we have right now (if you want to see a mind map in Spanish about the 10 ministers of Justice and Inner Affairs since this government started, go here)

Source: Notitarde stats based on monthly police reports from 2006 to 2009 as in map 1.

8) Demand social justice from the government. While people like Arne, the brother of the Justice minister, are now billionaires after being penniless in 2001, half a million people in Southern Valencia (the most dangerous region in the map shown first) are living without decent jobs, without a single general hospital (they have now to go to the Hospital general, which is for half of that state), without a real public library and with the worst public schools of Latin America.

*In reality it may be over 70, the government has classified a lot of murders as anything but murder, including a husband murdering his ex-wife.


  1. I think education is the best idea that a president have ever draw to easy the conflict with Israel. new generations of Palestinians with a better and passionate understanding of the improvements needed, but without the disrespect and misrepresentation that we commonly found in the western.

    I wonder you have not mention at all the new strategy launch by the government around regarding the new Security University, or the new law of National Police, or even more importantly, the new one thousands police officer trained under the new paradigm of "police near to citizen". I wonder why you don't take that important facts into your account?

  2. I think if Hugo were interested in education he would be investing in improving the quality of free primary and secondary education. Venezuela pulled out of all open international evaluation tests as soon as chavismo came into power because it is easier to "announce" things than to have to prove it.
    Hugo is interested in keeping the people ignorant because then they will believe the "Iran-Venezuelan technology" is really new technology, it is really something sustainable and it is really something new. In reality the Iranians are giving us very old French technology and we have no more control than what we were having with the Ford and GM assembly companies in the eighties.
    In fact we are much less competitive now. Even if GM and Ford were just assembling, companies such as Rualca and others started to appear around the assembling companies and they even started to export. All that is gone now. Did you know Venezuela started to export high-fi equipment in the early nineties? Now we are back to importing more.

    We have asked the government to let Venezuela take part in the PISA programme, for instance, to no avail.
    As for the projects for the police: because it is way too little way too late. You really portray crumbles as treasures.
    The government even sells the idea we have now much more Internet than before chavismo started (I forgot the percentage) without mentioning that the actual increase in Internet coverage all around the world happened around 1999:

    The same for mobile phones: they are almost saying it was only because Hugo is in power that we in Venezuela have mobiles or the like. The thing is: the more isolated you are and the less you know what is really happening outside Venezuela, the more you are going to believe in that.

    Going back to the police: I think it is a good idea to have a national police (I actually mentioned it as one of the ideas for Venezuela), but that is nothing original or revolutionary at all. The government is reacting way way way too late and after Venezuela went from 19 murders to several times that. Do you understand what RATES OF MURDER are?

    Right now the government took a lot of the budget from the police and put it in some presidential fund because Hugo, just some months before the elections, wants to use state money as propaganda: it is me and only me who can do that (never mind it is every Venezuelan's petrodollars)

    You should one day go to chile and ask your way around, or even in colombia.

    Don't get me wrong: the previous governments were very bad. This is just worse. Given the resources, given the much higher oil prices, it has done so little and it is trying to tell the people that every crumble they get is something really good.


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