The recent murder of two Venezuelan policemen brings the total number of officers killed in the Caracas metropolitan area this year to 101, an indication that Venezuela’s efforts to bring down its high crime rate is taking a toll on law enforcement officers in addition to civilians.
According to El Universal, the officers were shot in two separate incidents by criminal gangs who then stripped them of their weapons. Jose Ali Chacon was killed as he left a family party in the Las Casitas sector of the city; while Wilmar Machado was attacked as he arrived at his home in Los Silos de Caucagua.
As previously noted by InSight Crime, murders of police by gang members looking to steal the officers’ guns are becoming an increasingly common occurrence in Caracas.
The 101 police homicides in the Venezuelan capital marks a 20 percent increase from the 84 police officers killed in the city in 2011.
InSight Crime Analysis
As violent crime in Caracas continues to worsen, the rise in police deaths comes as no surprise. More than 3,000 homicides had been counted in the city by November 2012, making it one of the most dangerous places in the world.
The 101 police officers killed in Greater Caracas compares to 72 police killed in the whole of the United States in 2011, as noted by the LA Times in September. It also puts the Venezuelan city on par with São Paulo, where gang members are deliberately targeting police in a killing campaign.
In Caracas, police have become an easy target for gang members seeking to gain both weapons and elevated status in an environment of near total impunity. Murder rates have more than doubled since Chavez took office in 1999, up from 32.9 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants according to the Organization of American States to an estimated 67 per 100,000 in 2011 according to respected NGO Venezuelan Observatory Of Violence – an average of 53 killings a day.
Poverty, street crime, the international drug trade, and the wide availability of firearms all play a major role in the indiscriminate killings — but so does a weak judiciary and a generalized culture of violence that some claim has been stoked by President Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. The International Crisis Group has highlighted Chavez’s “confrontational rhetoric” as contributing to entrenched violence in the country, while Observatory director Roberto Brice-Leon claimed to the LA Times that “Chavez has promoted the idea that violence forms part of the class struggle.”