Venezuela, More Deadly Than Iraq, Wonders Why

Some Venezuelans joke that they might be safer if they lived in Baghdad. The numbers bear them out, says the New York Times.

For instance:

  • Venezuela is struggling with a decade-long surge in homicides, with about 118,541 since President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999.

  • There have been 43,792 homicides in Venezuela since 2007, compared with about 28,000 deaths from drug-related violence in Mexico since that country's assault on cartels began in late 2006.

  • More than 90 per cent of murders go unsolved, without a single arrest.


  • Caracas itself is almost unrivalled among large cities in the Americas for its homicide rate, which currently stands at around 200 per 100,000 inhabitants.

  • That compares with recent measures of 22.7 per 100,000 people in Bogotá, Colombia's capital, and 14 per 100,000 in São Paulo, Brazil's largest city.

  • In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.

    But scholars describe the climb in homicides in the past decade as unprecedented in Venezuelan history; the number of homicides last year was more than three times higher than when Chávez was elected in 1998. Some crime specialists say a reason for the surge is Chávez's government itself:

  • The judicial system has grown increasingly politicised, losing independent judges and aligning itself more closely with Chávez's political movement.

  • Many experienced state employees have had to leave public service, or even the country.

  • Cases against Chavez's critics – including judges, dissident generals and media executives – are increasingly common.

    Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda, a state encompassing parts of Caracas, told reporters last week that Chávez had worsened the homicide problem by cutting money for state and city governments led by political opponents and then removing thousands of guns from their police forces after losing regional elections.

    Source: Simon Romero, Venezuela, More Deadly Than Iraq, Wonders Why, New York Times, August 22, 2010.

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    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 31 August 2010
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