Ten years into Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, Venezuela has become one of the most violent countries in the world. In fact, reports to the New York Times, Venezuela is now more violent than Iraq:
In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.
And The Economist reports:
Venezuela’s national murder rate is 75 per 100,000 people, up from 49 just four years ago, twice the rate in neighboring Colombia where guerrillas continue to wage war and an astonishing 220 per 100,000 people in Caracas, higher even than in Mexico’s drug-ridden Ciudad Juárez.
Resentment between rich and poor, fueled by the country’s poor economic performance under Chavez, is cited as one factor in the rise in violence. Another is that some of the police, receiving low salaries, have decided to supplement their incomes by engaging in crime themselves. But perhaps the figures are an even bigger indictment of Chavez’s pursuit of unchecked political power. The Times explains it this way:
The judicial system has grown increasingly politicized, losing independent judges and aligning itself more closely with Mr. Chávez’s political movement. Many experienced state employees have had to leave public service, or even the country.
More than 90 percent of murders go unsolved, without a single arrest, Mr. Briceño-León said. But cases against Mr. Chavez’s critics — including judges, dissident generals and media executives — are increasingly common.
Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda, a state encompassing parts of Caracas, told reporters last week that Mr. Chávez had worsened the homicide problem by cutting money for state and city governments led by political opponents and then removing thousands of guns from their police forces after losing regional elections.
On August 13, the newspaper El Nacional published a vivid photograph of corpses piling up in a Caracas morgue. Did that prompt the Chavez’s government to make safety a priority? Nope. Instead, the government issued a gag order on publishing photos depicting violence.