Text

Crime in Venezuela

Maybe I should change this blog’s name to that, since that’s obviously the biggest problem we have. Then I would tell you about the young man who was murdered last night to steal his car:

A young 23-yearl-old student, Javier Perez, was murdered last night in Los Palos Grandes by a group of criminals who intended to steal his Toyota Meru car, according to El Universal.

According to the newspaper, he was driving with his girlfriend and two friends on Alfredo Jahn avenue in Los Palos Grandes, when he was intercepted by a group of criminals who arrived in a vehicle.

Apparently, the young man was intercepted a group of individuals in a Yaris vehicle and he tried to avoid them, but the presumed assassins fired eight shots against the young man and his car, causing his death.

I could also tell you about the teenager who was shot forty-three times in Barquisimeto:

A 17-year-old teenager was shot 43 times in the chest and head on early Wednesday.

The event happened in Sector 4 of La Carucieña, west of Barquisimeto, Juan de Villegas parish, considered the most violent of the city, where over 80% of the murders of the Larense capital take place.

But no worries! Because Chavez said that in 20 years there will be no more crime in the country, and that the current crime rate is the previous government’s fault (the one that left power almost twelve years ago.) Of course, when you’re a megalomaniac dictator with no plans to abandon power ever, you probably don’t feel any urgency to solve the country’s problems.

Link

It is a very simple story:

One month and eight days before the the National Assembly elections, the number one concern of the electorate is:

Crime

And as the press notes and emphasizes the fact that crime has tripled in the eleven years of Chavismo, a Judge issues the following prohibition:

For the next four weeks, no newspaper, magazine or weekly of the country can publish images that are violent, bloody, grotesque, whether about crime or not.

This is done to protect the “psychic and moral integrity of children and adolescents”. The four weeks “temporary” protection alone should tell you how electoral this decision is.

Of course, these people have been nowhere to be seen as kids and adolescents get murdered day after day by the uncontrollable crime that Chavez and his cohorts refuse to admit as a problem, but only as plot by the opposition.

Another noose has sadly tightened around Freedom of Speech in Venezuela and in clear violation of Art. 57 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which says:

Article 57: Everyone has the right to express freely his thoughts, his ideas and opinions either spoken, in writing or through any other form of expression and be able to use to that end any media of communication and diffusion, without the possibility of establishing censorship…

Can it be any clearer than this, it is simply another act of censorship and a violation of Freedom of Speech in Venezuela?

Quote
"Among all the countries where we have played, the security in Venezuela is the worst."

Lin Chen-chuan, team leader of the Taiwanese women’s baseball team, regarding the shooting of a player at the Women’s Baseball World Cup in Caracas.

After seeing government officials literally laugh off claims of high crime rates in Venezuela, I can help but feel massive, epic schadenfreude at this. I’m glad the injured player is fine, though.

Link

The second day of the Women’s Baseball World Cup, which is taking place in Caracas, has been suspended due to an incident during the game of Netherlands vs. Hong Kong.

According to the Ultimas Noticias newspaper, citing the commander of the 5th Regional Command of the National Guard, Antonio Benavides, one of the players from the team from Hong Kong playing in the Women’s Baseball World Cup was hit by a bullet.

According to the unofficial and unconfirmed version, she was hit during the game by a stray bullet.

The game was being played in the José Antonio Casanova stadium of Fort Tiuna.

It was known that the asian player was being treated at a medical center and is out of danger.

Tags: crime
Link

A Marcopolo-type bus transporting 80 kids of a vacation program was intercepted yesterday at 10 am in the Caucagua-Higuerote road by two robbers armed with a shotgun, according to information from the journalist Daivis Ramirez Miranda of El Universal

The thugs robbed the young kids and their guides, after blocking the road on which the group intended to reach the Curiepe river to spend the day. They took the kids’ bags, the adults’ belongings, and their shoes.

During the robbery, which lasted no more than 20 minutes, the thugs threatened to set the bus on fire, if the guides and the kids refused to hand over their belongings.

Tags: crime
Link

Mr. Chávez also focused his attention on Larry Leon Palmer, the veteran diplomat nominated by the Obama administration as its next ambassador to Venezuela. Some Republicans question whether the United States should retain ambassadorial relations with Mr. Chávez’s government, and the nominee received a searching set of “questions for the record” from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s senior GOP member, Richard G. Lugar (Ind.).

To his credit and that of the State Department, Mr. Palmer answered truthfully. He said that he was “keenly aware of the clear ties between members of the Venezuelan government and Colombian guerrillas.” He said that he was “concerned” that two individuals designated as international drug traffickers by the Treasury Department “are high-ranking officials of the Venezuelan government.” He reported “growing Cuban-Venezuelan cooperation in the fields of intelligence services and the military” and “morale and equipment problems” in the Venezuelan army.

Mr. Chávez once again was quick to respond. On his weekly television show on Sunday, he announced that Mr. Palmer would not be allowed to take up his post in Caracas because “he has disqualified himself by breaking all the rules of diplomacy, by prejudging us.” He said that the Obama administration would have to “look for another candidate.” The State Department responded that it was sticking with Mr. Palmer. It should. If ignoring the facts about Mr. Chávez is a requirement for sending an ambassador to Caracas, then it would be better not to have one.

Text

The scariest part of the violence in Venezuela is that all the talk about the increase in the number of homicides is not because homicides are the type of crime that has increased the most, but because it’s the only one where there’s a chance of obtaining objective evidence of its occurrence.

Crimes like robberies, rapes, assaults, and so on have probably not just tripled, but increased tenfold or more, but in most cases, like rape, the increase in homicides makes them less likely to be reported than before due to the very real fear of the accuser being murdered.

An insightful comment at The Devil’s Excrement. I would also add that the authorities are so overwhelmed by crime that they can’t, or won’t, do anything about something relatively “minor” like a robbery, so most crime victims simply don’t bother to report them. Impunity rules in Venezuela.

Tags: crime
Photo
The gut-wrenching photo of the Bello Monte morgue, the main morgue in Caracas, in today’s front page of El Nacional newspaper. The caption:


  Dead without dignity. The Bello Monte morgue has received in the six first months of this year 2,177 bodies whose cause of death is homicide: 362 each month, 12 each day, 1 every 2 hours. The bodies pile up, in total abandonment, like in this image from last December captured by the furtive click of the photographer. On the weekends, when the violence increases, there’s only one pathologist.


I agree with Dr. Lucien, from the article I just linked to: we need to see this, we need to be shaken, we need to wake up and stop pretending that this isn’t happening, and we can’t accept a government that laughs at this. This is a nightmare.

The gut-wrenching photo of the Bello Monte morgue, the main morgue in Caracas, in today’s front page of El Nacional newspaper. The caption:

Dead without dignity. The Bello Monte morgue has received in the six first months of this year 2,177 bodies whose cause of death is homicide: 362 each month, 12 each day, 1 every 2 hours. The bodies pile up, in total abandonment, like in this image from last December captured by the furtive click of the photographer. On the weekends, when the violence increases, there’s only one pathologist.

I agree with Dr. Lucien, from the article I just linked to: we need to see this, we need to be shaken, we need to wake up and stop pretending that this isn’t happening, and we can’t accept a government that laughs at this. This is a nightmare.

Tags: crime
Link

Crime is a taboo in the venezuelan government. It not only scares the common citizens, who are afraid of losing their life or properties. It causes panic among ministers, parliamentaries and in the President himself, who avoid the subject because they know it’s a pocket of social and political instability.

Sociologist Ramón Piñango explains that besides the human pain and collective threat, crime becomes a grave problem from the political standpoint. “When people feel threatened they believe they not only could lose their property, their Blackberry or their car, but they’re at the risk of losing their life and the risk of death grows as a collective risk. This has serious political implications because if people are backed into a corner and they’re forced to choose between the political regime — be it left- or right-wing — and their lives, they’ll choose life. This is a threat to the stability of any regime.”

Luis Cedeño, expert in violence and coordinator of the Active Peace NGO, agrees that what venezuelans care about and are interested about the most is the problem of crime and violence, but in Venezuela the official sector doesn’t talk about crime, while government spokesmen laugh at serious people who are trying to figure out this phenomenon to find solutions.

About the excessive effort of the authorities to hide or not mention the subject, Piñango adds: “As difficult as it looks, a death is something tangible. It’s not a perception, nor open to debate. Throwing numbers — like the ones handled by Roberto Briceño León of the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence — at the face of a government spokesman is tough, and pity him if he has to do the impossible to hide the reality.”

The lack of statistics and official figures has forced non-government organizations and the media to do research that allows them to measure with data the reality of violence and crime. Cedeño explains: “Since 2005 the NGOs have handled their own data in the countries and the government doesn’t dispute them. There are two options: the numbers given by these NGOs are correct or the official numbers are higher, and it’s not in the authorities’ interest to contradict them. If the government has lower figures, why keep quiet?”

The National Institute of Statistics made a victimization poll between March and April of 2010. “I was informed that the results of this poll are graver than the data from the 2006 investigation”, said Luis Cedeño, who is concerned that this data isn’t released.

According to a report by the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence in 2009 there were 16,047 homicides in the country. The unofficial data reported by the CICPC [Scientific, Penal, and Criminalistic Investigation Corps] was of 13,780 victims last year. The scientific police started 5,186 homicide investigations between January and June of 2010.

The coordinator of Active Peace also says that there’s a huge chasm between the rise of crime and the supply of justice and citizen security; this means that we need more morgues, more judges, more police officers. “The body count rises, but the related services don’t increase in the same proportion, which is why the morgues collapse. There’s an inadecuate handling of the corpses and that even affects the investigation of the crimes.”

In a crime situation like Venezuela’s, where the homicide rate is 70 for every 100,000 inhabitants, Oscar Lucien, PhD in Sciences of Communiation and Information, considers that the media are obligated to show this reality in a context of interpretation so that those problems are solved.

"The venezuelan society has to be shaken. An image says more than saying that in Venezuela over 14,000 people are murdered each year. You see a photo and it moves to, it shows you the drama we live. That is a record of reality, it’s not staged. That reality must move the venezuelans, and we can’t keep our indifference towards that volume of murders each day which remain impune," explained Lucien.

Tags: crime
Video

The cynical laugh of Andres Izarra in the face of the tragedy that homicides have tripled since Chavez took over:

Andres Izarra is President of Chavez pet international TV propaganda machine Telesur and has been Minister of Information and Communication. Yesterday on CNN Roberto Briceño León, Director of the ONG Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, was giving real statistics about homicides and comparing them to other countries and a hysterical Izarra did nothing but laugh like a hyena, denying everything and saying that Chavez is trying to change the problem structurally.

This is incredibly cynical as Chavez has been in power 11 years and the tripling of homicides nationwide has occurred during his tenure. In fact, during the last three years of the Caldera Government (which I did not like) the same homicide rate actually went down, so Mr. Izarra: Who did or not do something to change this tragedy that affects mostly poor Venezuelans?

How can you possibly laugh at this almost theatrically?

Watch Izarras almost hysterical laugh at what should have been a very serious discussion, it starts around minute 1 (Sorry, I dont have a translation, but would you laugh discussing such a serious topic?)

Honestly, no translation is necessary. Just watch the lack of respect and concern of this douche for the thousands of people affected by crime in Venezuela. Unbelievable.

Link

The story of how journalist Roberto Franchi was kidnapped and robbed in Caracas the other night. This is why I absolutely dread living here. No one is safe from this; it’s only a matter of time.

A Tuesday evening, one of those in which you think life is passing by while stuck in a rut, served as an excuse to accept an invitation from three friends to meet at El Alazán [a restaurant in Caracas], to drink a few whiskies, tell stories, and remember past times of friendship, anger, sadness, and a few complaints and criticisms about the times we’re living in the country.

Leaving, after the goodbye hugs and the “we’ll see each other soon”, I got in my car to go home, sleep, and continue my life according to my routine — or so I thought.

Near the Altamira offramp in the Cota Mil [one of Caracas’s main highways], a car tried to pass me on my left. I thought I was one of those guys in a hurry we’re used to seeing in Caracas, who just have to arrive before anyone else to wherever they’re going. Since I’m a relaxed person, I veered right to let him through without difficulties. Once ahead of me, the car began to brake inches away from me to block me off.

My desperate attempts to pass him or do magic and try to squeeze through the minuscule space left to escape from the unexpected event, were in vain. Five young apes appeared dressed in jackets and sweaters, and waving guns started to rain insults on me, demanding me to get out of the car. Once outside, they grabbed be and took me to theirs. That’s when I realized I had lost the battle, and that my life depended on whatever they decided.

A blow to the head, another to my ribs. “So, cocksucker, you thought you were going to escape”. The copilot turned around, pointing his gun to my head, and while he hit me he proclaimed himself the leader of the mission. “I’m in charge here, don’t forget it, you’re weren’t going to escape, who the fuck do you think you are? I’m in charge here.”

"Stop hitting me, I’m not an animal, what do you want?", I asked them, before they break my skull with their guns. "What do you have? Gold, where is the gold? We want gold and dollars." I tried to explain that I didn’t have gold, and trying to pacify them I told them "I wish I had gold; I wouldn’t be here with you if I did."

We kept driving through the Cota Mil while they took away my cellphone and asked me what I did for a living. Proudly, and thinking I could somehow save myself I told them I was a journalist, and that if they didn’t kill me that nicht I would write a chronicle of the events. (Here it is, as promised. Now return my computer.)

They kept asking about the gold, and decided they were going to my home to look for it, and if they didn’t find me they would shoot me dead. I tried to convince them that it wasn’t necessary to go there, because they would definitely not find any gold, but they’d find my mom asleep. Everything could end in chaos. Lost cause. In five minutes we were at my home without me having said the address. I couldn’t stop asking how they knew where I lived. “Do you think we’re rookie idiots?”, said one of them, smiling. That’s when I smiled and asked myself “what did I get myself into?”

We spent a few minutes outside my house; they were somehow planning their entry and getaway. One of them, trying to make conversation, tells me “are you nuts, why did you try to escape like that, I could have killed you.” That’s when I tried to act cool and tried to earn their trust so that when we were inside my house nothing regrettable happened, and answered “put yourself in my shoes, if you run into a car like that with armed people inside you would have done the same”. He nodded and agreed. At least we agree on something, I thought.

The time comes, they decided to go in, they opened the garage door and entered as if they had lived there for years. We got off, the dog barked, they threatened to kill him, I told them no, just play with him. I opened the door and entered. They follow me. We got to the living room and they asked for my mom. I told them she’s in her room, asleep, and I’ll wake her up. One of them, riled up, told me he’d wake her up with his gun. I stopped him with my arm and told him “no, I’ll wake her up”. They accept.

From then they started to search for the gold, which they never found. They took a handful of dollars, and when they were leaving they told me to go with them. My mother was a bundle of nerves at that point, while I calmed her telling her I at least had to recover the car.

I left the house with them, and we got to the car, which was waiting on the street. The guy leading me entered first, and then told me to get it. The driver gets angry and askedthe other “what’s the matter with you? Are you a rookie? Why did you get in first? He could have escaped and we could get caught. Pay attention.”

At that moment I asked them not to kill me, to just take me to my car and leave it at that. They laughed while they threatened to tie me up and execute me. The other ones inside the house arrived. One was carrying a microwave, the other a painting. They couldn’t fit the painting in the car.

My car was two blocks away. They let me out. When I tried to get it I found a fat guy in the driver’s seat, carrying my computer. Yes, the computer where I have all my life, projects, books, and scripts (and no, I don’t have backups.) I asked him, please, don’t take it. “Shut your mouth”, was all I heard.

I went home. My mom had called all the neighbors. I had to tell the story over and over again, and all I wanted was to go to sleep or make myself a sandwich even though the microwave was gone.

Tags: crime
Link

Criminal Justice International Associates (CJIA), a risk assessment and global analysis firm in Miami, estimated in a recent report that the Chávez Frías family in Venezuela has “amassed a fortune” similar to that of the Castro brothers in Cuba.

According to Jerry Brewer, president of CJIA, “the personal fortune of the Castro brothers has been estimated at a combined value of around $2 billion.”

"The Chávez Frías family in Venezuela has amassed a fortune of a similar scale since the arrival of Chávez to the presidency in 1999," said Brewer in an analysis published in their website.

Brewer said that Cuba is receiving about $5 billion per year from the Venezuelan treasury and in oil shipments and other resources.

"We believe that organized bolivarian criminal groups within the Chávez administration have subtracted around $100 billion out of the nearly $1 trillion in oil income made by PDVSA since 1999."

Tags: corruption
Link

A must read article from The Washington Post. So good that I can’t help quoting a big part of it:

Shortly after midnight on July 16, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reached back in time. He presided at the exhumation of the remains of Simón Bolívar — Latin America’s greatest independence hero, who helped liberate the region from Spain in the 19th century, and the object of Chávez’s personal and political obsession.

The skeleton was pulled apart. Pieces were removed, such as teeth and bone fragments, for “testing.” The rest was put in a new coffin with the Chávez government’s seal. Chávez, who also tweeted the proceedings, gave a rambling speech in which he asked Christ to repeat his Lazarus miracle and raise the dead once more. He also apparently conversed with Bolívar’s bones.

"I had some doubts," Chávez told his nation, paraphrasing the poet Pablo Neruda, "but after seeing his remains, my heart said, ‘Yes, it is me.’ Father, is that you, or who are you? The answer: ‘It is me, but I awaken every hundred years when the people awaken.’ "

By presidential decree, every television station in Venezuela showed images of Bolívar in historic paintings, then images of the skeleton, and then images of Chávez, with the national anthem blaring. The message of this macabre parody was unmistakable: Chávez is not a follower of Bolívar — Chávez is Bolívar, reincarnated. And anyone who opposes or criticizes him is a traitor not just to Chávez but to history.

All made worse since Chávez is the antithesis of Bolívar:

If you can imagine Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln rolled into one, you can appreciate Bolívar’s historical power in much of Latin America, and why a “Bolivarian” revolution is infinitely more legitimizing than a “Chávez” revolution. Chávez’s aggressive appropriation of Bolívar — first politically and now physically — is especially meaningful because it is an attempt to wipe away the most important opposition leader and philosophical nemesis Chávez could ever face: Bolívar himself.

After his failed coup attempt in 1992 against Venezuela’s democratically elected government, Chávez, who had named his rebel movement for Bolívar, was imprisoned for two years and eventually received a presidential pardon. Upon running for office in 1998, Chávez dubbed his party the Bolivarian Movement, and as president he changed the name of Venezuela to include “Bolivarian Republic.” He has often left an empty chair at cabinet meetings, for Bolívar’s spirit, and even ordered the central bank to deliver Bolívar’s sword for his personal use. (He has since presented replicas to Moammar Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe, Alexander Lukashenko, Vladimir Putin, Raúl Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.)

Bolívar would be outraged by the notion of Chávez, a socialist, as his intellectual or political heir. In his correspondence, Bolívar revealed himself as someone in the company of Thomas Jefferson much more than Karl Marx (who documented his hatred for Bolívar in great detail). He described the American form of government — so disparaged by Chávez — as “the best on Earth.” The small library that accompanied him on his military campaigns included Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations,” several biographies of George Washington and dozens of works on the rights of man and the tyranny of illegitimate government.

In language and thought, Bolívar was a student of the Enlightenment, and his struggle against Spain’s domination of South America reflected that inspiration. He was an admirer of the American Revolution, and his worldview was shaped by travels in Europe and by the works of Hume, Montesquieu and Voltaire. Bolívar understood that great nations are governed by laws, not men; liberalism, separation of powers, civil liberties, free trade and freedom of thought are recurring themes of his speeches and writings.

Chávez, in his personalization of power, assault on private property, stifling of dissent and destruction of the separation of powers, does not embrace Bolívar’s legacy. He represents its antithesis.

Link

While Chávez theorizes about the causes of the Liberator’s death, his critics maintain that it’s a maneouver of distraction to try to cover up the reality of a country sunken in a profound crisis. The inflation — 31% in June, the highest in Latin America — forces citizens to pick their pockets more and more; the economy went into recession last year and is still in the red in the first quarter of 2010. Also, containers full of rotten food are still being found, due to the alleged mismanagement of the state company which imports it (Productora y Distribuidora Venezolana de Alimentos, PDVAL, subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, PDVSA). In total more than 130,000 tons of rotten food have been discovered in ports and warehouses, which were supposed to be distributed in the public network of markets.

Also, in Venezuela has started the campaigns for the parliamentary elections of September 26th. Which is why the opposition has said that issues like the supposed murder of Bolívar and the potential rupture in diplomatic relations with the Vatican, which has been discussed these past few days, are smoke screens deployed by the government to deflect the debate about its mismanagement to solve the problems of crime, inflation, corruption and deficient public utilities that plague the country.

The economic problems are joined by the conflict with neighboring Colombia, whose government just denounced the alleged presence in venezuelan territory of three important guerrilla leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN).

In less than 24 hours, the experts of the venezuelan government claim to have found evidence that historians couldn’t find in 180 years. Elías Pinto Iturrieta, director of the National Academy of History, told El País that there is no evidence of the time that points to anything close to the existence of a murder or an act of violence. “There isn’t the slightest scientific base to justify this nocturnal freak show. No historian can back the hypothesis of Bolívar’s murder. There is nothing left to think but that this is a way to occupy the foolish with a death from 1830 rather than the excesses we’re seeing in our time.”

Text

Chávez is now showing Simón Bolívar’s corpse on national television

This is a fucking outrage. Unbelievable.