Venezuelan authorities stand by a dismembered body

Fourteen dismembered corpses have been found so far this year in Caracas, suggesting that the gruesome tactics of foreign criminal groups -- and possibly the criminals themselves -- have found their way to Venezuela's capital.

Three of these cases have occurred in the past month, according to SuNoticiero. In July, the arms, legs and head of a young male victim were discovered in a bag. His torso was recovered nearly a month later. Days before that, the mutilated remains of a kidnapped Portuguese businessman were found along a main highway, reported Spanish newspaper El Pais. Last week, the dismembered body of a woman was discovered -- also on a public highway -- hidden amid bags of trash.

According to El Pais, 14 such cases have been reported in the capital city this year. Dismembered bodies have also been found in Tachira state, on the Colombian border.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said there had been cases in which the "Colombian necktie" method was applied -- this refers to the practice of slitting the throat of the victim and pulling their tongue through the hole. He stated that this method, along with dismemberment, were "types of homicide copied from other places." An unnamed police source interviewed by SuNoticiero said dismemberment was a tactic seen particularly in the Colombian border region.

While a companion of the victim is accused of being behind one of the dismemberment cases, the general pattern points to the involvement of criminal groups, according to SuNoticiero's source.

InSight Crime Analysis

As the Venezuelan government presents a narrative of improving security -- Minister Rodriguez recently said kidnappings were down this year by 52 percent and homicides by 21 percent -- these recent cases present a worrying picture of the security situation. 

Dismemberment is a crime often associated with large-scale, expansionist criminal organizations in places like Colombia and Mexico. The tactic has also begun to appear in Honduras, where foreign organized crime has become increasingly rooted in recent years. Dismemberment is used by criminal groups to impede homicide investigations, by making bodies hard to identify, and as an intimidation tactic.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Criminal Migration

Colombian narco-paramilitary groups -- with the Urabeños currently the most prominent -- are known to operate on the Venezuelan side of the border. There have also been reports of kidnapping gangs composed of both Colombian and Venezuelan criminals operating in more central Venezuelan states.

As social and political chaos reigns in Venezuela, criminal groups flourish. The dismemberment cases could be an indication of a growing foreign criminal presence, or could mean that Venezuelan groups themselves are adopting increasingly brutal methods.

Investigations

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