Venezuela has been in an economic crisis since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998 when the country’s oil-based socialist economy began to rapidly decline. Since then, Venezuela has faced extreme inflation that exacerbates with each passing year. Crippling poverty exists in this South American nation on a massive scale, snowballing into issues beyond the depreciation of the bolivar currency. In Venezuela, nationwide violence is a consistent problem that brings mass media attention from all over the world. In order to fully understand how to help alleviate the rising violence in Venezuela, it is essential to understand the top 10 facts about violence in Venezuela.
10 Facts About Violence in Venezuela
- A primary cause of violence in Venezuela is the economic recession sweeping across the nation. Since November 2016, the country has been experiencing hyperinflation, as every month since that November, the bolivar currency has exceeded an over 50 percent inflation rate. In addition, Venezuela’s overall unemployment rate has been around 35 percent since December 2018; projections state that this rate will significantly increase to 44 percent by the end of 2019. According to the United Nations, nearly 90 percent of Venezuelan residents live in poverty. This economic recession has caused mass financial insecurity across the nation, becoming a potential cause for the rising violence across Venezuela.
- Gangs, especially mega-gangs, are a major factor in the violence across Venezuela. Mega-gangs typically have around 50 members, with some gangs having members in the hundreds. There are about a dozen of these mega-gangs nationwide. Criminal gangs heavily congregate in the poorest places in Venezuela, called barrios or ranchos. The gangs are frequently responsible for violent crimes in these impoverished neighborhoods.
- The Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice ranked the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, as the most violent city in the world in 2016. As of 2018, Caracas maintains its place as one of the top three most violent cities worldwide.
- Caracas reaches notoriety for its high homicide rates. In 2015, Caracas was at one of its highest homicides per capita with around 119 murders per 100,000 residents.
- Across the whole of Venezuela today, the estimated homicide rate is 89 murders per 100,000 residents. While less compared to Caracas on its own, Venezuela’s overall homicide rate is still one of the highest worldwide.
- Despite there being violent crime widespread across the nation, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory reports that people report just over 60 percent of Venezuelan’s crimes.
- While many consider Caracas to be one of the most unsafe cities in the world, the true extent of violence in Venezuela is only speculative. According to Insight Crimes, referencing the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, the Venezuelan government prevents the release of real crime statistics. The Venezuelan government rejects any observational claims that the nation’s crime rates, especially in regard to homicides, are increasing. Nongovernmental groups like the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV) have become the primary sources reporting on violence in Venezuela in the absence of government transparency.
- Under the regime of Nicolás Maduro, the Bolivarian National Police has created the Special Actions Forces (FAES) in response to the national crises. According to the OVV, about one-third of the murders in Caracas are the result of FAES and other security forces within Maduro’s regime. These security forces aim to repress political protestors and target suspects of violent crimes.
- Violence is committed by both sides of the Venezuelan political crisis. Loyalists and security forces in support of Maduro’s regime target protesters resulting in beatings, unlawful incarcerations and atrocities committed to those incarcerated. Some have reported that rebels protesting Maduro’s regime are aggressive towards police forces. They reportedly set fires to street barricades, and in an isolated attack, attempted to drop grenades onto a government building.
- Organized crime and violence flourish in abandoned peace zones across Venezuela. An unofficial government project, the government designated peace zones areas across Venezuela that lack police presence. The locals were supposed to negotiate policing, which left communities vulnerable to gangs. With the peace zones initiative now abandoned, these areas remain overrun with black markets and violent crimes.
Crime and violence is now an everyday norm across Venezuela, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths each year, and increasingly unsafe living conditions nationwide.
While there are many issues surrounding the violence in Venezuela, however, the world is noticing the situation. The United Nations has recently met to discuss the numerous crises going on in Venezuela. There was a mass condemnation of the government’s use of violence against peaceful civilians. The overall consensus is that since the problems in Venezuela stem from political discourse, peaceful political initiatives are the correct route in addressing the nation’s problems.
– Suzette Shultz