Arrests of Venezuela Police for Kidnapping Show Limit to Security Reforms

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Authorities in Venezuela have arrested eight members of the national police force on suspicion of kidnapping, the latest sign that reform efforts have failed to root out corruption within the country’s police. 

Venezuela’s Public Ministry detained eight members of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) for allegedly kidnapping a businessman in the northern state of Vargas, reported El Universal. The officers are accused of taking the victim into a police vehicle as he was leaving his business on June 5.

Witnesses at the scene reported the crime to municipal police in Vargas, which led to the capture of the eight suspects, according to El Nacional. Upon arrest, the officers reportedly claimed that the businessman was assisting them with intelligence operations.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Group (GAES) believes a kidnapping gang called Juvenal is behind a series of “express” kidnappings in the northern states of Guarico and Aragua, reported El Nacional, kidnapping multiple victims at a time and typically holding them for less than 24 hours. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest of eight officers illustrates the failure of Venezuelan authorities to root out corruption and criminality within the country’s police, despite ongoing reforms that began almost a decade ago. Earlier this year, 13 members of the country’s investigative police force, known as the CICPC, were arrested for kidnapping.

As part of the security reforms, in 2011 Venezuela disbanded the Caracas Metropolitan Police (PM), which the government considered to be corrupt and inadequate. This contention is hard to dispute; an InSight Crime field investigation in 2011 found that police were involved in an estimated 80 percent of all kidnappings in Caracas.

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However, the liquidation of the PM was likely as much a government tactic to gain greater control as it was an effort to improve security in Caracas. With the election of Antonio Ledezma as mayor of Caracas in 2008, the political winds in Venezuela’s capital had turned against the ruling party, the PSUV, and the central government installed the centrally controlled PNB — the force now accused of kidnapping in Vargas — to replace the metropolitan police. 

Corruption within the police forces is likely exacerbating the current security crisis in Venezuela. However, it appears the administration of President Nicolas Maduro remains more intent on squashing political scandals than engaging in serious police reform

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