Venezuela's conflicting homicide numbers tell two stories

Venezuela's interior minister says the 2013 murder rate has fallen around 30 percent since last year, a dubious claim according to NGO counts and given the government's propensity for fudging crime statistics.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres told Reuters the country was set to end 2013 with a homicide rate of 39 per 100,000 residents, which according to statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), would make it the lowest since 2005. 

The figure would represent a major drop from the government's official 2012 murder rate of 56 per 100,000 -- itself a record high. Independent counts set the 2012 rate much higher, at up to 73 per 100,000.

The minister attributed the 2013 decrease to President Nicolas Maduro's program of sending soldiers to the streets to fight crime.

"There's still a lot of work to do, but we're heading firmly in the right direction," said Rodriguez.

The independent Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, meanwhile, has projected a 24 percent rise in murders on the 21,000 it recorded last year. To this, the minister replied, "They want to keep the perception worse than the reality."

InSight Crime Analysis

Earlier this year, Rodriguez admitted to media that the Venezuelan government keeps unfavorable crime statistics secret, saying he told Maduro they should start releasing the numbers now that they were "in tune with what we want." Over the year, his claims of decreasing homicides have ranged from five to 61 percent, and the government's lack of transparency and wildly fluctuating estimates offer good reason for doubt.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles

Additionally, the first four months of this year saw record homicide numbers maintained, putting the country on track to far exceed the 16,000 murders officially recorded by the government in 2012. As of August, the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence had calculated 25,000 murders for the year.

Even if Rodriguez's claims were credible, a murder rate of 39 per 100,000 would be nearly four times what the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies as "epidemic," and among the highest in Latin America -- above both Colombia and Mexico. The fact that such a figure appears to be a wildly optimistic projection only further highlights the country's dire security situation.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

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.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.