A student protests rising murders in Caracas

While the Venezuela government, notorious for its manipulation of statistics, claimed that the homicide rate dropped in 2013, to 39 per 100,000 of the population, a rather more reliable NGO puts the figure at more than double that, at 79, meaning the nation remains one of the most dangerous in the world.

According to statistics put together by the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia –OVV), murders significantly increased during 2013, with 24,763 registered homicides, bringing the country to yet another grim new record level of violence -- 79 murders per 100,000 people. Last year, the Observatory put the rate at 73 per 100,000 compared to the government-cited figure of 56 per 100,000 -- though even the lower, official figure was a record high for the country.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles

The 2013 rate of 79 murders per 100,000 would mean Venezuela is still far and away the most dangerous nation in South America, and trails only Honduras (with a rate of 86) as the most dangerous nation on earth.

InSight Crime Analysis

Unfortunately the government claims that homicides actually dropped 30 percent in 2013 are so unbelievable that they must be discounted. Ever since Hugo Chavez took power in 1999, the Venezuelan government has controlled the flow of information on all matters, but particularly that regarding public security. His successor, President Nicolas Maduro seems even divorced from reality. His grip of the tiller appears wobbly at best as inflation breaks 50 percent, there are frequent power outages and supermarket shelves lack basic products.

The reasons for the rapid increase in murders over the last decade in Venezuela are manifold. Perhaps first among them is the increase in drug trafficking through the country, with up to 200 tons of Colombian cocaine transiting every year, bound for the US and Europe. This has created not only organized crime networks but resulted in the widespread corruption of elements of the Venezuelan security forces -- elements known as the “Cartel of the Suns,” after the gold stars that the generals wear on their epaulettes.

The Chavista regime has also promoted the creation of different irregular, armed groups, which began after the failed coup attempt against then president Hugo Chavez in 2002. Now the criminal landscape is populated with armed groups like the Bolivarian Liberation Forces (FBL) and the urban “colectivos” like the Tupamaros, which control large sectors of Caracas’ slums and whose activities are overlooked, or even supported, so long as they deliver votes for the government on election day.

The likelihood is that crime and violence will increase in Venezuela during 2014. It remains to be seen if Venezuela will topple Honduras from its position as the world’s most dangerous nation.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Prev Next

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...