Venezuela Murders Could Hit 19,000 in 2011

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According to an NGO that tracks violence in Venezuela, the country is on track to register 60 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants in 2011, or more than 19,000 homicides.

This puts Venezuela among the most violent countries in the hemisphere, far above countries better known for their struggle against crime, like Colombia (38 per 100,000) and Mexico (about 15).

After Venezuela’s government stopped making homicide statistics public in 2005, a Caracas-based NGO, the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVW) began releasing their own statistics based on police files. The NGO’s estimate for the 2010 per capita homicide rate is 57 per 100,000. This is higher than the official estimate released by the government earlier this year: 48.

According to the observatory, the murder rate in Venezuela has more than quadrupled since 1999, when the country officially registered 4,550 homicides.

Another survey published by the NGO, carried out in 1,000 households across the country, says that 66 percent of Venezuelans who’ve been a victim of violent crime chose not to report it. This is indicative of the lack of public trust in Venezuela’s institutions: police are believed to be responsible for up to 20 percent of all crimes.

Perhaps more worrying than Venezuela’s rising murder rates is evidence of increased collusion between the government and public officials linked to organized crime. U.S. authorities have named the current defense minister, General Henry Rangel Silva, as a drug trafficker who worked with Colombian rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC).

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