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
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

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...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

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...