Venezuela Arrests Police for Extrajudicial Killings

The arrest of several police officers accused of extrajudicial killings once again shines the spotlight on this issue in Venezuela.

In the northern state of Aragua, five police were arrested in connection with a gruesome video showing the execution of at least one person, Ombudsman Tarek William Saab announced via Twitter.

Meanwhile, local newspaper El Nacional reported that four police officers were arrested in Zulia state, for allegedly assassinating five people, including three teenagers.

The arrests follow the launch of Venezuela’s controversial security plan in July, known as the “Operation Liberation and Protection of the People” or OLP, which relied on large deployments of heavily-armed police and military forces. While President Nicolas Maduro and other officials have presented the OLP as a way to tackle street violence and organized crime, critics have said the security surge may have encouraged human rights violations.

InSight Crime Analysis

Venezuela has long struggled with the issue of extrajudicial police killings. According to human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) Provea, police were responsible for 189 unsanctioned executions in 2014. This has contributed to high rates of distrust in the police: in one recent survey, 55 percent of respondents said they believed police were involved in organized crime. 

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Asides from poor training and pay, and lack of sanctions against violent officers, police may also rely on excessive force because of frustration with Venezuela’s dysfunctional justice system. Given Venezuela’s chronically high impunity rates, police may view using excessive force as their best strategy for dispensing what they perceive to be “justice.”

Police also may rely on excessive force because they may feel like vulnerable targets themselves. There have been several reports of police killed by gunmen who want to steal their weapons. Some 338 members of the security forces were killed in 2014, accordion to NGO Fundepro.