Govt Claims Crime Falling in Venezuela

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Crime in Venezuela has fallen by 7 percent since the start of the military-led “Plan Patria Segura,” according to the government, although ongoing controversies over official statistics cast doubts on the claim.

Venezuela’s Ministry for the Interior and Justice released figures showing that since the security plan began in May, there has been a 16.6 percent drop in murders, 20 percent less kidnappings, 16 percent less robberies, 14.3 percent less assaults, and 3.8 percent less rapes when compared to the same period the year before.

Vice Minister of Citizen Security Manuel Suarez Hidalgo attributed the drop to the new security plan, which has seen the deployment of the police and military to the streets, increased the control of community councils and seen government ministries work with social organizations, reported Ultimas Noticias.

InSight Crime Analysis

The issue of security has become highly politicized in Venezuela, with the opposition keen to exploit spiraling violence and rising crime to attack the government. The previous government of Hugo Chavez, for the most part, tried to divert attention away from the issue and rarely openly admitted the scale of the problem.

The new government of Nicolas Maduro has proven to be more willing to engage openly on security and related issues such as corruption, admitting it is one of the most serious issues facing the country — although placing the blame for it elsewhere — and making it a policy focus.

However, it is difficult to judge the effectiveness of the new security policies, as the Maduro administration does not appear to be any more committed to transparency than its predecessor when it comes to statistics. In 2005, the government stopped releasing weekly crime figures, and since then reliable data has been hard to come by. Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez recently admitted the new government continued to conceal crime statistics and said he had proposed changing this policy — but only because there was good news to report, as with the newly released statistics.

Government claims of success are also undermined by a lack of trust in official figures. The controversy over the large discrepancies between official murder statistics and independently collated figures that began under Hugo Chavez has continued under Maduro. Venezuela analyst David Smilde told InSight Crime, “Any given year if you add up the percent reduction in crime that the government claims, you would end up with zero crime at the end of the year.”

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