Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has announced the creation of “peace zones” and his justice minister said the government should consider stricter gun control, a piecemeal approach in the face of rampant violence.
According to El Universal, Maduro said the zones will be enforced through participation from state institutions and citizens, and will be implemented in “public spaces,” highways, hospitals, schools and universities.
“We have to create a system of constant monitoring and care,” El Nacional reported Maduro as saying.
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The statements were made during a “Day of Peace and Life” staged in Caracas on January 26, at which the Interior, Justice and Peace Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres called for more debate on gun regulation. The minister said that only security personnel should legally be allowed to carry weapons, and suggested at least 5,500 legally obtained guns are currently in the hands of criminals.
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Maduro’s announcement comes just weeks after a former champion beauty queen was robbed and murdered along with her British husband after their car broke down on a highway outside Caracas. While the case was quickly declared solved after seven were detained and charged in the homicides, it created a surge of public outrage over the insecurity, which has seen the country become one of the most violent in the world over the past decade.
With regards to the proposal, Maduro has said the “peace zones” will include round the clock vigilance. But the question remains how this will be implemented and whether this is simply a political ploy to quiet the storm that continues to swirl after the beauty queen’s brutal murder.
The call from Rodriguez for further debate on gun control is much more interesting and has a far greater potential to impact Venezuela’s security situation. It comes just months before a ban on the commercial sale of firearms — unsuccessfully implemented to curb the country’s rising murder rate — is due to end and little over seven months after a disarmament bill was signed, following three years of revisions.
But with 2011 estimates placing the number of civilian firearms in circulation at between 1.6 and 4.1 million, how Maduro might reclaim those arms at a time when people feel increasingly insecure remains an unanswered question.