Saturday, 10 October 2009

bleeding Venezuela

graph: total murders per year in Venezuela (PROVEA data)

A Venezuelan physician in a public hospital finishes her lunch in the cafeteria on the ground floor. She gets to the stairways and starts her way to the fourth floor. A nurse going down greets her. On the second floor the doctor notices there is a man going up as well. She gets to the third floor, greets another doctor and starts to climb again. She turns to the right and suddenly sees how the man jumps the last steps separating them, grabs and twists her arm and pushes her against the wall. "Be quiet, don't do anything", he says. He snatches the thin golden necklace around her neck and runs away in a second.

Later, after she has recovered from the shock, she tells a friend about it all. He smiles sadly and tells her: yesterday I didn't manage to turn on my car, there is something wrong with the distributor. I was in a hurry, went out and started to look for a taxi. There were only motor taxis. I took one. There was a huge jam at the Avenida Urdaneta. We stopped at a crossing. I saw next to us on the pavement a girl talking on her mobile phone. My taxi driver said to her: "honey, you shouldn't hold the mobile like that". He grabbed the mobile from her and drove away with me clinging on his back. My legs were shaking. I could do nothing. The guy said: "Lo siento, doctor, I could not let it pass, too easy". I said I wanted to stop there. I payed. I got off. I could hardly stand. I had been on the same bike as a robber."

Ten years into the "Revolution" and crime in Venezuela has not abated. It has become much worse. Hugo was actually elected, among other things, because some people thought he was going to take Venezuela to crime levels as low as those we had when his idol, former right-winged dictator Pérez Jiménez, was in power. That did not happen. Not only that, but the murder rate has tripled, as we have written several times here. We have no idea about other types of crimes as they can more easily go unreported, but we feel things have gone to levels we never imagined possible. The worst thing, perhaps, is that the government refuses to discuss the issue. The president told Bbc journalist Lustig in 2005 that crime has "dramatically decreased" during his government. The British journalist did not go deeper into that, Hugo just went on to talk about social injustice and capitalism as root of all the crime. Years later Larry King also asked very timidly about the issue. Hugo went around the bush once again. The few foreign journalists who are allowed to ask questions to Hugo are mostly very shallowly informed and only dare to ask the "what is your favorite colour?" kind of questions.

Mexico is a mess now. Still, it has a lower murder rate than Venezuela and the government is apologizing about the crime level. They recognise things in spite of it all. They probably make promises they are not fulfilling but at least they are trying. You can see them being interviewed by critical TV journalists, you can see them debating live with the opposition. In Venezuela it is not like that. No critical journalist is allowed to get close to Hugo. No open debate is imaginable with high ranking officials. There is only denial and magic numbers about a fuzzy "crime" going down. People are wondering if this is a tactic used by the government: let the thieves lose, let the people hide as soon as there is dark, let the people be afraid of everything even in the middle of the day.

The government of Venezuela stopped sending murder numbers to United Nations in 2002. Now we still can get numbers, but it is very difficult: you have to go to the morgues, you have to ask to regional police stations, add up. The chart above shows the total number of murders in Venezuela as provided by the NGO Provea. The numbers for the last years are very probably higher than that, but the police has been given order to redefine what a murder is. A lot of things fall now under "violent death".

As we wrote in a previous post, most policemen now are working as bodyguards for the chavista elite. The government has bought over 2.2 billion dollars in Russian weapons. The military are very happy. Some other people benefiting from commissions too. In the video below Hugo is talking (no subtitle) about his most recent toys. We don't have an idea yet what those tanks are for. The Venezuelan borders are mostly a jungle and sea.

We know the country is bleeding, though. Our best professionals are leaving if they can. I wish I could write less about this topic. I can't. I know that doctor. I know that teacher.


  1. It really is something that keeps stuck in the back of my mind and that makes me nervous. The sense that you are being overcomed by paranoia, just to wake up and know that, well, it isnt paranoia, its plain common sense.

    For personal reasons ive always said that I want to stay in Venezuela (knowing that it might be a foolish choice) I can live with no RCTV, even without any radio stations or independent newspapers, I can live without family guy and with no CADIVI. Ill throw fits and protest, ill make a racket, but its something I can live with.

    But, being in a constant state of fright, that, is maybe something I CANT live with.

  2. Hi, Manuel. It is indeed a worrying thing. Even in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe in general people were not afraid of getting a bullet in their head just for walking around.
    chavismo does not even want to have an open discussion about the issue: "how could you use crime for politics?", "we are working on it", etc.
    This insecurity at all levels is what distinguishes chavismo.


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