For months Venezuela has experienced a crisis so serious that even the international community is in alert. Scarcity of food and medicines as well as a marked fall in the quality of life of its people are among the nation’s numerous difficulties. Another concerning phenomena is the total lack of security for Venezuelans.
The Venezuelan NGO observatory of violence (OVV), which focuses on violence in that country places Venezuela second among the world’s most violent countries and Caracas as the world’s most dangerous city.
In its recent report OVV says: “According to the main official sources and information collected in six regional observatory on violence, in 2016 we estimated a rate of 91.8 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants and a total 28,479 deaths on the national territory, derived from the sum of murders juridically accepted as such, estimated as 18,230 cases; victims of actions classified as resistance to the authorities 5,281; and 4,968 cases of violent deaths still being investigated, lacking any known intention.
With a rate, recorded in 2016, of 91.8 violent deaths every 100,000 inhabitants, Venezuela is second among the countries in the world with the highest murder rates. In first place, as in 2015, we find El Salvador, with an average rate of 100 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants (in 2015 the number recorded was 103); and in third place comes Honduras, with a rate of almost 60 murders every 100,000 inhabitants (in 2015 the number registered was 56).
Moreover the OVV surveys reveal that violence generated by ‘resistance to the authorities’ increased considerably in 2017. “Resistance to the authorities, which includes clashes with the police, is a growing element of urban violence”, says Roberto Briceño-León, OVV director. “According to our surveys, every day in the whole of the country 15 people die in clashes with the police which means an annual total 4,500 deaths. We estimate that 2017 will register a number of 5,500 killed in urban clashes”.
We note that in 2016 in Syria the total number of casualties was 17,000 including 2000 children. In Venezuela, without an official war, the number was more than 12,000. According to the OVV annual report on violence for 2016, last year Venezuela registered at least 28,000 violent deaths. And, according to OVV forecasts, the figure at the end of 2017 could amount to 30,000. It is evident, therefore, that the 20 security plans launched in 1999, at the beginning of what was termed the Bolivian Revolution, were a complete failure, serious reports of violation of human rights on the part of the security forces, and deaths attributed to the People’s Freedom and Protection Operation, a military operation to fight insecurity and questioned by various sectors of the country.
In the same way, Venezuela has seen an increase in criminal use of firearms, as well as rifle grenades in clashes with the police and in episodes of kidnapping. The use of war arms allows not only open clashes with the police but also attacks on police stations.
The state has handed security control over to criminal gangs as it happened in the past in penitentiaries, where today control is in the hands of the detainees.
This has led citizens to take their own security measures: roads closed with private vigilance authorised to signal the arrival of criminals or other similar dangers; curfews, normally set from sundown when people fearing violence seek safety at home.
Furthermore public display of mobile phones, expensive clothes, wristwatches and even shoes can trigger a murder. The theft of such objects in many cases, due to the high rate of inflation and fall in value of Venezuelan currency, renders more than thefts of money.
Besides all this, in the absence of action on the part of the security force and the judiciary, citizens in many cases decide to obtain justice with their own means. Frequently criminals caught red handed are lynched. Besides national insecurity the country suffers food insecurity, which causes serious episodes of fighting among the inhabitants for a little food with rising prices and scarcity of basic products,.
The deplorable situation in Venezuela today forces many to search in garbage dumps for food. Very often people fight over a bag of bread. It is unacceptable that this should happen in an oil producing country with some of the world’s largest reserves of oil .
Venezuela is living the weakest period in the whole of her republican history. It is saddening to see children, instead of going to school, searching for food scraps and in some cases stealing for the same reasons. Venezuela is crying out for justice and needs help to find solutions for her difficulties. The world must know of our plight and give us the help we need. The world must know that we want to save our nation and that now more than ever we need the support of the whole international community.
Carlos Nieto Palma