Really, María Corina?

María Corina Machado says she can bring down crime in six months. “We have the will, the knowledge, the resources, and the experience,” to launch an all-out assault on small-time drug trafficking to achieve this, she says.

Really, María Corina? You really think you can train more cops, train more prosecutors, train more judges, train more prison guards, train more probation officers, hire the cops, hire the prosecutors, hire the judges, hire the prison guards, hire the probation officers, build more police stations and crime labs, build new courtroom capacity, build more jail capacity, build more prison capacity, build a probation service to reinsert into society criminals after release, equip the police stations and crime labs, equip the courtrooms, equip the jails, equip the prisons, equip the probation officers, and create new mechanisms to prevent corruption from siphoning off the multi-billion dollar investment involved in all of that…in six months?

Um, no. In six months what you can do is a series of splashed together redadas that harass people in poor neighborhoods and land in jail a bunch found with guns or drugs on them at the wrong place and the wrong time, jails where they’ll just harden into longterm criminal careers, while doing nothing to address the real institutional bottlenecks that prevent the state from setting out a serious, sustained, long-term strategy with a real chance for success.

When Chávez proposes efectista short-term sops to structural long-term social problems, we roll our eyes and call it populism. When you do it, we call it…what again?

Now, really, given that you’re 40 points behind in the polls, that you’re really not going to win, that your one calling card for a place in the cabinet is your reputation for intelligence and honesty and avoiding shrill, populist promises, do you really think you’re serving your interests, or the nation’s, with this kind of Alfredo Peña-esque pap?

I’m sorry, but it’s just disappointing.

99 thoughts on “Really, María Corina?

    • Agree! I am as big of a proponent of this as ExTorres is of unconditional cash transfers.

      BUT!…..

      Unfortunately, it is impractical for any one nation to do this unilaterally, because all nations are bound by interlocking treaties to maintain and enforce criminal laws on narcotics. I don’t think this can be done until the U.S., Canada, and a majority of the countries in LatAm are ready to do it all together. It would probably require modification to treaties with Europe and with U.N. as well.

      I think we are years away from finally succeeding in this. But I welcome all efforts to launch the national and international debates on this.

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      • OT:
        It’s strange one of the main causes of frustration in China in the XIX century was Britain’s refusal to stop opium exports to China. Britons said time after time it was going against free trade and that if China prohibited opium consumption, it would mean war.

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      • Roy, rather than legalize, one could have decent places of voluntary reclusion in which drugs are freely administered by nurses under doctor supervision as long as users wish, but the only means for leaving is after rehab, thus taking users off the streets while having researchers accumulate much needed data regarding success rates of rehab medications and strategies.

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        • Extorres,

          This won’t address the real objective, which is putting the drug cartels, gangs, etc., out of business. Control the production and sale of drugs the same as alcohol and tobacco. Yes, we will still have to deal with the social problems of drug abuse, but we will deal with it as a social problem, not a criminal problem.

          Again, we must eliminate the source of the wealth and power of drug trafficking industry.

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          • Roy, I differ. Having a place where drugs are available like this would severely maim the drug business, not only because there would have to be producers selling to the government, but major clients not willing to commit crimes to get money for the non free drugs. It would also render people more willing to talk regarding those buying and selling the drugs out of the loop, since they cannot be given bozal de droga anymore. This is the source of their wealth and power.

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      • Rather, Venezuela can do like other countries that de-emphasized the enforcement of most drug laws (and resultant incarceration) and focused on a different approach or on different offenses. Alternatively, decriminalization, that is conversion of penal offenses into administrative is bound to help.

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        • No. I support a drug market with the same regulations for alcohol and cigarettes. In other words, a very free market. Let the people decide on themselves and assume the consequences of their actions.

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  1. I agree. MCM is too much of a political idealist. And she’s very raw.

    The Crime problem in Vzla is tied to Economic woes, under-employment, under-education, systemic corruption of police and the judiciary mess, etc. It’s going to take decades to make it significantly better.

    I guess she’s just naive… Inexperienced in the political arena, for sure. Beyond innocence, she’s ill-advised by those around here. Otherwise she would be deliberately lying and misleading with such absurd promises.

    I wrote something after her slap at Chavez the other day, which somewhat illustrates this topic:

    “Clearly, the woman has balls. (Tip for a new slang ” Maria Corina Si tiene Coraje!” Coraje). That’s commendable.

    But here are a few observations on her brave interception:

    – Less can be more. As you mention, 9 hours of Chavez’s rants where quickly debunked, if not effaced by a couple minutes from MCM. Chavez has not learned that basic rule of public speaking in 12 years. He thinks that the more he talks, and talks, the better. Not necessarily, even if his approving audience is, by enlarge, even more under-educated than he is.

    – Kudos to MCM. Calling Chavez a Liar, and a Thief, in no uncertain terms takes guts.

    – But here’s where she could improve: She plays the “Women’s card” too much. She needs to speak to the entire population, especially on a Machista country as ours is. “Las mujeres no consiguen leche.. etc. fine, but she over-does it.

    – It’s unclear what she means by repeating “la Vzla Decente”. Whatever she has in mind, it’s not conveying any message. As opposed to what, exactly? Those are inefficient, political cliches. Same as “transformacion profunda”, o “una nueva Vzla”, we’ve heard that a million times.

    It’s a bunch of political hot air.

    And let’s remember. Una “sifrina” like MCM is not gonna steal many votes from the under-educated, Chavista masses. She needs to speak to the more educated, middle and upper classes, which might tip the balance in her favor. Sad, but true. SO.. that political rhetoric won’t work with people like you, the readers of these sophisticated blogs, or me. We just don’t buy that kind of political, empty crap, cliches, and populist “catchy” expressions.

    She needs to target her act, because ALL politicians must ACT.. to her target audience. That is, perhaps 70% of the more educated voters in Vzla. Forget about the other 30%, or spending too much time in the barrios and pueblos del interior: Those voters are already SOLD, literally. Chavez bought them years ago with BS and gifts.

    Final note: Cracks me up when Chavez keeps utilizing Imperialistic, Oligarch, “escualido” term such as “fuera de rankin'”. If he was a bit more educated, and true to his mantras, he would never use such American expressions in his speeches. Guess he’s also been “conquered” and his mind was “invaded” by the Yankis, so there’s some justification for his maniacal paranoia.. Heck, he should even be talking about Baseball, or “homeruns”, and stuff.

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  2. Desperate measures with less than a month of campaign. Disappointing? Not so much, as politicians do “what they gotta do” to win elections, including making promises they know they can’t keep. She’s so far behind in the opinion polls that she may as well try some bold actions. She has nothing to lose.

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  3. I don’t intend to take issue with your “disappointment” re. MCM (actually I’m not much of a fan either, so I wasn’t disappointed) but do feel the need to point out that dealing with small time drug trafficking is probably both less and more complicated than you suggest.

    My experience is limited to one small semi-rural community but quite certainly applies to others. There we all know who our local, friendly drug peddlers are; we also know most of our petty thievese and even can identify almost all involved in more recent armed robberies. (Pueblo pequeño, infierno grande.) Clearly, bringing them all to justice would entail all you list and maybe more (e.g., tapping international connections, i.a.) Not feasible in the short run; been there, done that.

    However, with community help you could go quite a ways and I tend to agree that a likely place to start are those friendly small time dope peddlers (who do well by doing good, shades of Tom Lehrer). Why? Because, though a vast majority reject and is appalled by rising crime, people will shield their family members and friends — but people are willing to blame their misdeeds on drugs and, hence, providers, who have much fewer dolientes. You may not be able to recur to community councils to put pressure, legal or otherwise, on relative thieves, but they may be willing to collaborate re. peddlers.

    Of course, that venue is complicated. Very. Long term education is in order: Though “our” crack dependent petty thieves steal where they can, including impoverished neighbors’ homes, few of their clients and potential victims, if any, will pass up a bargain offer of an obviously stolen object they’ve been hankering for without being clearly conscious of the role they in the chain,
    Even so, as I see it, the local peddlers the weakest link, are a good place to start (accepting thanks from MCM via Juan Cristobal).

    Alas, removing the local peddlers could/would bring us to a higher tier. To weaken that link, I would legalize marijuana instead of persecuting campesinos who always grew it in the past — but that’s another issue.

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  4. Yes, this is evidence of naivete on MCM’s part. The candidates need to be wary of over-promising, lest it make the country even more ungovernable than it already is.

    I will count the first administration after Chavez as a success if they manage to avoid civil war.

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    • 1)What would gun control do about the millions of firearms that are already out there?
      2) It is one thing to have a law. It is entirely another thing- especially in Venezuela– to enforce it.

      Your claim about gun control sounds about as realistic as MCM’s 6 month claim about crime.

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    • The only thing that will happen is that the good guys will have their guns taken away & the criminals will continue to be heavily armed.

      Where do these guns come from – the GN & police who freely sell them.

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      • For me gun control doesn’t necessarily mean take away guns.
        Contrary to public opinion in the Americas, I can buy a gun here or in Germany, or two or three. I don’t know the exact regulation, but it is possible.
        And there is a control so that they can come and check I keep them properly (at least in Germany). And the police knows where every person lives.

        You have to hide much harder here than elsewhere.

        I used to send some post to people in Venezuela (now I hardly do that thanks to rojo-rojito Ipostel). A good address would go like: “Avenida Negro Primero, edificio El Dorado, 42, al frente de la lavandería La Blancura.” Millions of people live in places without street names, without any kind of inventory.

        About guns from the GN and police: OK, but you need to have controls to see if group GN from Aragua, Municipio Bolívar, has all its guns and when it lost what. If they lose 1 thing, they need to report that the same day, by digital means…and if they don’t do that, they are committing a crime. That should be possible.

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    • Doesn’t Venezuela already have stringent gun laws? Like no automatic weapons stringent? While I agree that REAL gun control would probably take weapons out of the hands of criminals I don’t think much will get accomplished with the GN selling as many AKs as humanly possible out of their stocks to anyone waving cash.

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      • That’s why we need accountability. There must be a commission led by deputies of any opposition where deputies commission the control of guns. Obviously, deputies themselves won’t do this on their own, but they should see to it that random checks be carried out to verify gun XREZZ-12233 in Maracay at the GN post Z is presented, with its ID and all.

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  5. When I first heard MCM tout her slogan “popular capitalism” it seemed to me then to be out in left field, a little far from the Venezuelan reality. But I gave it the benefit of the doubt. And there was a lot of doubt in my mind about MCM’s political traction for the mantle of presidency.

    That doubt added to my disappointment, when I suspected that MCM had lifted Thatcher’s catch phrase (popular capitalism). It seemed to fit the profile of someone with a burning desire to gain a political vantage point, no matter what. (Hey, why not Maggie Thatcher’s concept, MCM might have thought. It’s a catchy. It worked for Thatcher. She’s a woman. So am I. We’ll make it fit.) And so popular capitalism was re-born in the tropics, but with none of the foundations to ensure its success. And isn’t that so often the way, in Venezuela? Especially among those with means: All glitz and palaver, but little substance.

    Not to say, that MCM is any different from any other politician. It’s just that in her case, she’s running against those with much heavier political porfolios.

    I hope she stays the course. I even hope she forms part of the oppo cabinet. Venezuela needs her. But not as president. Too many loose threads. Por ahora.

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    • P.S. the catchy phrase: “bring down crime in 6 months” is the same thing as the “popular capitalism”, simplified for the tropics. But at least she doesn’t say “eliminate crime in 6 months”. I suppose with just a little effort you could bring down crime in 6 months, even if one percent of it.

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  6. What is up with you guys? You can say MCM is new to the game, brashly reckless and that she’s down in the polls etc but, disocunting Diego Arria, something of a social and political outlier, she is the only candidate who started life in the real world, albeit the corporate sector: the rest are professional politicians and, realizing that there are many, many shades of grey in that category, grosso modo, can you think of a lower fom of life? As for the vindictive rant about some ideal world where uncorruptible police and judges proliferate on every corner in six months, no-one expects that to happen but simply removing impunity – in Baruta, dangerous criminals are sure they’ll be released in short order, always — can make a dent in the crime wave – which is what she’s on about – and MCM knows more about micro narcos (except, with all respect, for Pandora, possibly) than any blogger here, to boot. No-one’s promising Paradise In Six Months and I don’t think anyone took it that way so why this, seemingly supercilious and sneering, poke at the SOLE oppo candidate who’s ever stood up to the Cháv, utterly unsupported by the Opposition Floursacks of Wimpdom in the National Assembly? And these are the guys whose cronies are ahead in the polls: if anything was sad in the whole episode, their crashing silence was. All of them dumbstruck in awe of a man who required attendance for over eight hours of cant & codswallop before there was any resistance, being…..MCM. In many peolpe’s view, she may fall short, far short even, of ideal, not being a seasoned politician for instance but again, among you, who would lñike to see his daughter or son dating a ‘seasoned polutician’ (sic)? I think you can readily disagree with MCM but in a mannner that preserves the, meanwhile very commendable, level of the “Caracas Chronicles” postings..

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    • Neddie,

      As usual, you nailed it with this comment:

      “so why this, seemingly supercilious and sneering, poke at the SOLE oppo candidate who’s ever stood up to the Chávez”

      In a nutshell this sums up what often goes wrong in Venezuela

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    • “utterly unsupported by the Opposition Floursacks of Wimpdom in the National Assembly?”

      right on!! hehehhe!

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  7. “When I first heard MCM tout her slogan “popular capitalism”..

    I was baffled too.

    First, it’s an oxymoron of sorts.
    For anyone with a high school education, that “catch-phrase” won’t fly.

    Think about it: Damn too close to “socialism”, for any one with half-a-brain.

    At the very least, extremely confusing.

    This MCM lady has guts, but she has no clue as to what she’s doing, yet.

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  8. Way to throw a straw-man argument at MCM, Quico. She’s talking about swift action to bring down the crime rate in six months. You’re talking about a permanent reduction in the crime rate thanks to a complete institutional makeover. These are two vastly different things – both of them necessary, but complimentary.

    I think what’s behind this is a certain knee-jerk lefty aversion to anything remotely sounding like a “law-and-order” platform. We saw it in the Peruvian election, when you were reading between the lines of Keiko’s calls for law and order, and you’re reading in between the lines here. It’s as if you think that the poor are not the victims of crime, and that any effort to reduce crime is mainly throwing a bone at the rich.

    It’s not like that.

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    • Thanks JC fo your comment.

      I understand that “law and order” in Latin America means “brutal military regime” for many, given the last 50 years of history have proved to us. I’m against that.

      However, Venezuela have in 2010 more violent deaths that the US (according to the FBI official report it was around 10.000, lowest number in a long time) and looks that in 2011 we beat Mexico, even with the brutality of the drug war over there.

      Probably MCM choose the wrong words (“acabare” or eliminate all crime in 6 months here is not happening, even if Batman and The Avengers come to help us), but I agree in the core argument that decisive action must be taken. Law enforcement, period.

      The thing is that people should be prepared for this. Si vis pacem, para bellum.
      Declare judicial emergency, change the penal code, bring all the human resources possible. ACTIONS. No more words.

      I agree with Quico that police work alone won’t solve this. Education, better housing, decent jobs, it’s all connected. But for the next president, fight crime must be the priority from day one.

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    • No Juan it’s that you don’t have enough trained and equiped and empowered and competent personnel in ANY link of the Law Enforcement chain to do anything other than short term, ley-de-vagos-y-maleantes stuff to get a quick reduction in crime. We know that approach doesn’t work, because that’s the approach we’ve been using for the lat 100 years, and crime only goes up.

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      • If what chavismo is doing in government with the coffers considered a crime, then just replacing them with her team will reduce crime considerably in less than 6 months…

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      • Quico:

        I followed the link to the Ultimas Noticias piece. The headline says she will eliminate crime in 6 months. (“Acabaré con el delito en seis meses”)

        The body of the piece says: she said she will reduce crime in 6 months. (reducirá el índice delictivo en seis meses.) She then goes on to say she will put a brake on criminality (Voy a frenar la criminalidad no en cinco o 10 años, sino en seis meses.) Nowhere in that article does she get quoted as saying she will eliminate crime in 6 months

        Honestly, I think you ought to direct your “arrechera” to Ultimas Noticias and not MCM.

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    • BTW, whatever happened to it’s-essential-to-vet-the-candidates-during-the-primaries!? That used to be your thing…

      In the end, what I’m advocating here is a REAL law and order campaign: a campaign to equip the state with the means to get serious about enforcing the law and upholding order on a sustainable basis, rather than just giving the short-term impression thereof.

      The mirage of quick results without structural investments into the nuts and bolts of the criminal justice system that MCM is peddling is the opposite of Law and Order.

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      • I think her contribution is valuable. We tend to think these problems are ginormous, that take a complete institutional, well, revolution to be able to make some headway. What she is saying is: look, let’s focus on the problem areas, let’s focus on micro-trafficking, and we can make a dent on the trends more quickly.

        I’m all for vetting candidates … fairly! I think everyone agrees that a long-term solution to the problem requires exactly the kinds of things you mention. But she is staying there is an intermediate step we can do to break the trend. She’s saying you don’t need special SWAT teams or to bring special cops from Uranus. She is saying she can work with what we have, focusing on the high-crime areas, breaking the bones of the gangs. Isn’t that sort of what they are doing in Rio?

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  9. Obviously you are a little hurt by the 5 minutes of fame that MCM is enjoying after has the BIG OVARIES (not big balls) to tell to the president and the rest of the country that was watching that the president “was not wearing cloth”…She saidshe will decrease no eliminate…yes maybe she is exaggerating but how about everybody else that is running in this primaries. Sometimes your Venezuelan macho mentality gets out so clearly! Do not worry so much about MCM these days…Venezuela sadly is not ready to elect a women for president and MCM is to “jojota” …so go a pick on somebody else!

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  10. Wouldn’t removing Chavez and his cronies from office qualify as “cuting crime”, and all in one sweeping action?

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  11. It seems to me that Últimas Noticias’ headline is a bit biased towards making MCM to sound like offering an impossible goal. The body of the press note cites her saying “Voy a frenar la criminalidad no en cinco o 10 años, sino en seis meses”, which is different to the headline “Acabaré…”

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    • yeah, the headline was tendentious, but the promise overall is code for “I’m going to have a bunch of redadas to throw into jail anyone I can bust for a petty offense before I’ve even tried to address any of the structural shortcomings of the criminal justice system” – and that’s just weak.

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      • You do realize that Ultimas Noticias is owned by Miguel Angel Capriles right?

        It´s not the first time they twist the truth to favor somebody from their circle… They´re pretty good at it actually.

        I also want to add Quico, you are blowing this waaaay out of proportion… Howabout we break down (and destroy as you have) every other thing any of the candidates have stated/promised.

        We know you never liked MCM, but this post just shows you downright despise her.

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        • If I hold MCM to a higher standard it’s precisely because she’s shown she has the intellect and the seriousness than to know better than this kind of foolishness.

          She’s not going to win the primary – everyone must realize that at this point. Given that’s the case, her best case scenario is to come up with her reputation for integrity and honesty intact and her head held high. This kind of populist crap does not contribute to that.

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  12. I know CC isn’t officially endorsing a candidate until the primary is closer, but I guess Quico never said anything about not smearing the other contenders in the meantime.

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    • Again, if I hold MCM to a higher standard it’s precisely because she’s shown she has the intellect and the seriousness than to know better than this kind of foolishness.

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      • The problem is that you’re not really holding her feet to the fire, not in any meaningful way. Juan put it better than I could, so I’ll quote him:

        “I think what’s behind this is a certain knee-jerk lefty aversion to anything remotely sounding like a “law-and-order” platform. We saw it in the Peruvian election, when you were reading between the lines of Keiko’s calls for law and order, and you’re reading in between the lines here. It’s as if you think that the poor are not the victims of crime, and that any effort to reduce crime is mainly throwing a bone at the rich.”

        His point is borne out by choice quips from your article, such as:

        ” and land in jail a bunch found with guns or drugs on them at the wrong place and the wrong time”

        I’d love to hear when’s a good time to have guns and drugs on oneself. Might help those poor, hapless choros caught with them.

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        • So you throw a kid with some weed or a knife in jail. You don’t have the means to investigate him, why he had the weed, what the point of the knife was, how he fits into his neighborhood gang, whether he’s a proper criminal or just some kid with some weed or a knife. You can’t charge him, because you don’t have the prosecutors to bring the case. Even if you did, you can’t keep him in prison, cuz there’s no space. So he’ll spend a couple of weeks in an overcrowded jail surrounded by a mix of hardened criminals and others on their way to becoming hardened criminals. You’ll stigmatize him, put him on his way to becoming a hardened criminal himself, expose him to insane violence while inside…and within a few weeks you’ll dump him right back out in the same community where you picked him up a few weeks ago, where he’s now MUCH more dangerous, with no mechanism to manage his reinsertion into the community…and here’s the kicker YOU’LL CONGRATULATE YOURSELF THAN IN DOING THAT YOU’RE BEING TOUGH ON CRIME!!!

          It’s just pathetic, EA…

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          • I’m surprised that you’re still seemingly unaware your entire argument is built on a colossal strawman.

            From “Voy a frenar la criminalidad no en cinco o 10 años, sino en seis meses” to “I’ll throw potheads in jail in order to fudge the numbers” requires a level of mental gymnastics I don’t think MCM’s statement warrants.

            Read the comments on the actual article: Refrito insults from people who seemingly didn’t make it past the fake-quote headline. You know better than that, and are better than that.

            I’m fairly convinced she won’t win the primary, because of many factors, but the implications of a statement she didn’t actually made shouldn’t be one of them.

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      • I couldn’t agree more that such statements are disappointing. It will take quite a bit to put a dent on the crime numbers that we have and even if all the efforts are directed in that direction, it won’t be possible in such a short time frame. But again, I think of it as more disappointing in the sense of promising something impossible, more than a concern of having “redadas”. C’mon FT, do you really think that her whole crime fighting strategy is to shell the crap out of the barrios? You are not holding her to any high standards, you are just calling her a brute.

        In spite of those comments she is perhaps the most sincere candidate out there and willing to talk about the difficult decision we face ahead, and the most courageous for that matter (she gets shot at and comes back next week to the same place). HCR sadly is not commenting on ANY of the issues or decision he will have to make. I hope that after the candidacy is his, and he starts to have one on one with Chavez he shows more teeth and balls. So far, HCR seems to be neutered by his political marketing team.

        ps. You don’t have to be antagonistic to show courage. It is not about picking a fight, but about making the hard decisions.

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        • It’s not that I think redadas are her whole crimefighting strategy, it’s that I think if she gives her interior minister his marching orders and those orders are “we need results within six months”, she’ll distort his entire agenda and point him towards the only kinds of policies an interior minister could imaginably unfurl within six months – a brute-force mass-scale stop-and-search campaign that addresses none of the long term institutional deficits that make cities dangerous.

          It’s not as though this hasn’t happened dozens of times since the Gómez era…

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          • Quico, honestly. Your whole premise seems to be “Maria Corina is right-wing … ergo, she’s a goon.” It’s kind of unfair. But we love you anyway.

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  13. No entiendo a este poco de venezolanos escribiendo en ingles… no es por nada pero por este tipo de gente es que Chavez seguira en el poder infinitamente

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  14. Actually, as a reference:

    Click to access venezuelaeinfh00bruoft.pdf


    (in German, look for “Mord” to see the stats per state)

    In 1911 (as far as I remember) there were 511 murders in Venezuela.
    (100 000 * 551) / 2 804 511 = 19.65 x 100 000. That is exactly what we had in 1998 according to UNODC. The murder rate was much lower in the seventies and eighties (below 10).
    So: it seems it went down and back up beginning in the nineties (where it almost doubled) and then since Chávez came to power (when it tripled from the 1998 level)

    The by far most dangerous area in Venezuela during Gómez times seems to have been Lara and secondly Falcón. A hypothesis by Raúl is the cocuy drink: many people brewed illegally, huge sessions of getting drunk existed since Nikolaus Federmann was trying his sword there.
    Raúl said Pérez Jiménez prohibited the illegal breweries. Besides, Polar arrived and people got less drunk.

    Now we also have an issue: a much higher heavy drug consumption level. Venezuela is no longer “transport country”. Consumption is huge, that’s what several physicians who work in poor areas have told me for years now.

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  15. I disagree with you guys again!

    Some measures may reduce crime in six months: gun control, bonus for the police, more police around. She will not solve the problem in six months but she can do something in six months!

    About her not winning the primaries…I don’t know Quico. I think that it depends on who will be going to vote. MCM’s followers are loyal ones….anything can happen….

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  16. Hey boys and girls, the reality is we have four non-stellar candidates, none of which excite anyone, nor are terribly charismatic or have been unable to show the charisma we expected.

    But…

    each of them is likely (and hopefully) willing to surround him or herself with professionals that know more about the problems than Chavez and the Chavistas and Venezuela will be slightly better.

    That is all I will vote for and hope.

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  17. Doesn’t the experience of Mexico, and to a degree Colombia, tell us that serious efforts to crack down on crime i.e. going after organized crime on a “structural level”, generally result in a massive escalation in violence? And without a serious plan for addressing the structural causes of economic and social marginalization (which has not happened in the last decade and a half) , does the fight not just perpetuate itself with new recruits replacing the ones in jail, while at the same time the beefed up system creates its own entrenched interests and drifts toward martial law? Nothing is going to happen in 6 months. If there is a change of government, its going to take 6 months just to remove all the shredded paper from government and military offices and replace all the missing cell phones, hard drives and laptops. All the government and military vehicles and their drivers? Maybe their sudden disappearance will inspire a movement for proper public transportation. I’ll be devils advocate: the Chavez government had talented professionals working in it- and still does. Venezuela does not lack for talented, capable, well educated professionals. It does not lack for good ideas. But the military-clientelist structure rewards mediocrity, passivity, incompetence, blind loyalty and outright criminality on a massive scale. Reversing all of that decay- people will have to be patient, brave and committed, and act like they have never acted before, to say the least. The candidate has got to inspire people to change and to struggle for change, not just to go out and vote.

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    • Mexico and Colombia are dealing with very highly organized criminal organizations. Not the case here. For us, a more adequate example would be Brazil. What we have here is a bunch of very atomized low level criminals with access to guns fighting over minuscule drug distribution territories.

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      • Maybe you are right. I’m not an expert. I talk to people and I get an impression. Brazil is an interesting comparison and I don’t know much about Brazil. But I read references that show up in stories like this one (where they identify the actual flight that the stuff goes out on), and I have to be skeptical:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/world/middleeast/beirut-bank-seen-as-a-hub-of-hezbollahs-financing.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1&ref=hezbollah
        If I were the U.S. (which I am not), I would not raise too much of a fuss about what I know, or what I think I know, because (a) I want the oil to flow, and (b) I know Chavez is still very popular in the region, and I also have the good sense to realize that I have little credibility on the street in latin america. And if I were Colombia, I’d ask for some token gestures from the Venezuelan authorities to keep the gringos feeling good about me, and then look the other way and focus on my own problems, so that (a) I can enjoy the fruits of Venezuela’s massive reliance on my exports, and because (b) I know Chavez is still very popular in the region, and the downside to pissing him off about drugs and organized crime is an endless headache and nothing good. But I hope you are right.

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  18. If there is something Venezuelan citizens love to do, really love-love-love to do, that is a caimanera. It must come from our traditions, really, about how to slaughter a cayman in the rivers of the Orinoco basin. Hell, there there real big caymans in Puerto Cabello in 1800.
    We still try to solve problems like that: throwing stones, arrows, spears, without coordination, without a real plan.

    A couple of remarks:

    1) The head of the CICPC said now the police will be tracking down guns and munition to find out the sources and try to combat crime that like. No one, not a single oppo politician reacted to that.

    That is like a country where half of the patients in hospitals die and the minister of health says now they are going to clean the tools used by doctors and the rooms patients are in to see if mortality can be reduced.

    What the hell were they doing before?

    I have time after time being asking myself where those weapons are coming from. Even if most get their serial numbers deleted, many still do have them. If we can backtrack numbers of CNE voters, why can’t we do that for the police? One single Russian rocket would pay for enough IT power and man months to implement a completely automated system.

    Most people I knew about who had a gun – legally – got it stolen by thieves: my neighbours, who had a couple of guns next to their room but were overpowered by some sleeping gas (they say),
    a friend’s friend, who was attacked on the road from Valencia to Caracas and lost a long-range infrared hunting rifle, etc.

    But apart from that, most of the weapons come from the military. And the military would need to report gun losses.

    And that is not done as it should. There is a dirty mafia there.

    2) I was talking to a bloke about digital maps. He works with that. He told me a couple of years ago the national police works witn old maps and pins in red, yellow, green. No real IT.

    All in all, I think countries providing weapons should be made responsible.

    This is a rough chart I produced with Carabobo stats:

    There is more detailed information, but it gets lost in old yellow papers used to clean up the police headquarters in Valencia. Out of that information, based on streets, we should be able to better predict where those forces are needed.

    I don’t know…I live in a country with a murder rate below 2.
    I don’t see the police here in a threatening way as in other places. They have guns but they keep them well hidden most of the time. When there are demos you don’t see them brandishing their weapons like some object they need to show. And yet: they are here and appear out of the blue everywhere. They move around.
    If you are in Venezuela there are some places you don’t see a single policeman in ages, even if there is a group of them 500 metres from that place.

    Of course, you cannot force policemen to do much in Venezuela if they cannot pay the rent of a decent flat with their meagre salaries.

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    • Remember when the CICPC decided to to raids (with SWAT and everything) all over Caracas and then they just stopped? I expect the same here. Just for show.

      They know who is doing what, but they won’t act because of orders from above.

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  19. By the way: only about 1601 people were “detained” for murder crimes in Venezuela last year, as I wrote in my blog. Over 18000 people were murdered. Even if we don’t have with that the ratio of people committing how many murders when, we can have an educated guess:

    you are more likely to get caught if you have a typo (s instead of c or something) in an address in the tax declaration for your business – and then they close it down or cajole you to pay them some dosh- than anyone if he kills 5 persons in Venezuela.

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  20. Yes it’s achievable. but that’s not the point. we now are talking about insecurity, which puts the ball firmly in his majesty’s court.

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  21. “Small-time drug trafficking”?
    That’s where she intuits most of the crime is coming from?
    One of my best friends, whom I talked to in December, is currently reduced to phone assistance jobs in Caracas. She makes about 1,500 Bolivars in a call center. People walking in San Ignacio or Tolón are brandishing 6,000 Bs BlackBerries; ergo, my friend could walk in there, snatch a phone, and make 3 months of salary off the bat.
    But these economic inconsistancies don’t count, I guess, It’s all “small time trafficking”.
    I don’t know why I get the impression, as Toro does, that “small time trafficking” means busting some wannabe rappers in Plaza la Candelaria passing a joint around, not -heaven forbid- attacking the humungous coke binges that go down in San Ignacio on any given Saturday.
    Obviously, Maria Corina is very, very disconnected from the Venezuelan drug scene. I know of an underground invite-only bar in Sabana Grande, for exemple, where the “menu” consists of a bottle of scotch and some bumps of coke, for 500 BsF. (Disclosure: Even though I don’t personally do yayo, not interested at all, this is a true story; I kid you not). Anyways, the high-end junkies here are far from being criminals, most have bona fide, reputable jobs.
    But I guess it’s easier to blame drugs for crime, specially if you do it from a disconnected, ivory tower point of view with no roots in the serious drug problems Venezuela does have. Codeine, for exemple, is rampant in Venezuela: you can buy it *over the counter* in pharmacies. You see kids taking swigs of cough syrop at bars and concerts.
    This is a real problem that should be attacked with realistic, down-to-earth proposals. Trivializing drugs for electoral purposes is wrong. It stems from either, huge misconceptions or total dishonesty.

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    • Vinz,

      I’m not sure people are trivializing , and you might consider that there are different angles and different truths that can contribute to the greater understanding.It doesn’t take an insider to know just how easy it is to get drugs in Venezuela….I knew about that umpteen years ago and I am the epitome of out of touch when it comes to the drug world.

      In several Kioscos on the streets of Caurimare and El Cafetal kids could buy cocaine when I lived there….most of us know that…which is the main reason I left Venezuela.I just didn’t want my kids to have easy access to that crap.

      And yes, I do blame drugs for a lot of crime…because it is not only thedirectly criminalized aspect of the problem that causes it, it is the disintegration of behavior and consciousness that drugs cause that greatly contributes.People high on drugs are more likely to infringe on the limits of acceptable behavior and lose control of impulses.On drugs even people who are not sociopaths can quite easily commit destructive and or unlawful acts.

      I doubt you know any of our private lives well enough to claim that any of us live in an ivory tower……

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      • FP
        I find your comment ridiculous. So we mock Chávez when he puts unqualified people in positions of power (a vet as Minister of Culture), hold a technocratic view of the economy and say Maduro’s a simple bus driver but when it comes to solving a very difficult problem like crime and drug use in a capitalist society, anyone can have his say???
        So which one is it, do we listen to the experts and call candidates out on their BS when they pull all-encompasing phrases out of their asses (like “small drug trafficking is responsible for huge amounts of crime”), or do we advance common-sensical, un-based claims, such as, “all people on drugs can easily commit destructive or unlawful acts” (not like, erm, drunken people or people wired up on coffee, I suppose)?
        I say, let the experts deal with it. I say, let the people in contact with the addicts explain how to solve the problem. I say, let’s not advance hare-brained ideas like some in this thread, about commiting junkies and having state-paid nurses shoot them up.
        BTW, I heard that kiosk you mention on Ppal El Cafetal is still up and running…

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        • Your straw man arguments here are hard to refute Vinz LOL….many experts would disagree with you:

          1. Alcohol IS a drug Vinz

          now just to name just a few studies:

          “Flunitrazepam has been implicated as the cause of one serial killer’s violent rampage, triggering off extreme aggression with anterograde amnesia.[20] A study on forensic psychiatric patients who had abused flunitrazepam at the time of their crimes found that the patients displayed extreme violence, lacked the ability to think clearly, and experienced a loss of empathy for their victims while under the influence of flunitrazepam, and it was found that the abuse of alcohol or other drugs in combination with flunitrazepam compounded the problem. Their behaviour under the influence of flunitrazepam was in contrast to their normal psychological state.[21”

          “Of the adult US population, at least 75% are drinkers; and about 6% of the total group are alcoholics. In groups that are almost 100% drinkers, the alcoholism rate is about 8%. Many reports state that about 73% of felonies are alcohol-related. One survey shows that in about 67% of child-beating cases, 41% of forcible rape cases, 80% of wife-battering, 72% of stabbings, and 83% of homicides, either the attacker or the victim or both had been drinking.”

          and

          Research carried out on drug-related crime found that benzodiazepine misuse is associated with various crimes that are in part related to the feelings of invincibility and disinhibitory effects of benzodiazepines, which can become particularly pronounced with abuse of benzodiazepines. Problematic crimes associated with benzodiazepines include shoplifting, property crime, drug dealing, violence and aggression and driving whilst intoxicated.[5] In Scotland among the 71% of suspected criminals testing positive for controlled drugs at the time of their arrest benzodiazepines (over 85% are temazepam are detected more frequently than opiates and are second only to cannabis….blah blah I could go on and on on this one…..

          are second only to cannabis, which is the most frequently detected drug.[6]

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  22. Now this is plain silly! What is a little “I can fix the crime fast” promise when compared to all the other innumerable promises flown around by all candidates?

    Yes, MCM, was lucky this week, and was offered great window of opportunity on a silver tray, and she took it. Well done!

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  23. To Mr. Toro: I have been an avid and enthusiastic follower of this blog for some years, among many reasons, because of its incisive and well-reasoned views on all things political. This is the first time I choose to post. I feel the need to comment on your opinion about María Corina for two reasons.

    Firstly, although you make no secret about the fact that you are a sympathizer of Primero Justicia, you maintain a mostly unbiased, equal-opportunity coverage of all the candidates. Nevertheless, I find your criticism of MCM in the past weeks somewhat suspect. PJ´s line since friday has been to minimize MC´s clearly powerful and far-reaching actions in the National Assembly, much in the way that you insist her impact is limited to hard-line radicals and elites. If you´ve had the opportunity take the pulse of the national conversation, in universities, street vendor stalls, in line at the supermarket or the bank, as I take it you have not, you would know that her words are being repeated throughout all socioeconomic levels in the capital as well as the interior, and have made headlines to such a degree that the chavismo felt it necessary to enter damage control mode every single day since friday ( Chavez himself even issued a press statement justifying and defending expropriations on sunday…) I would suggest you revise MCM´s profile on your Opposition Primary Field Guide, as I doubt that her campaign can still be described as “not catching fire.” And I would also suggest that you be more straightforward about your agenda.

    Secondly, as someone who has worked closely in developing MCM´s Plan de Gobierno, I can tell you that her affirmations about being able to bring down the crime rate in 6 months, far from being demagoguery, are the result of months of research and information supplied and endorsed by experts in the field of criminal justice and law enforcement, who have had and still continue to have ample field experience. The truth is that law enforcement bodies know who the criminals are and have identified their whereabouts. Last year alone, the “Plan Madrugonazo al Hampa,” carried out by the CICPC, dismantled 2.412 criminal gangs. Wilson Ramos, the kidnapped major league player, was found after no more than 48 hours thanks to effective police investigation and political will. Rather than training more policemen in the short-run, task-forces of the most competent, best-trained men and women can be deployed, provided they are properly equipped and coordinated between municipal, state and national levels, and carry out an effective reduction in the crime rate within months through targeted work and most importantly, the creation of a tangible deterrent to hitherto unpunished crime. The effects of this multitiered and focalized approach have been proven to be exponential.

    Faced with criticism of not having previous political experience, María Corina´s credibility is one of her most precious assets in this campaign, and I can assure you that, in the same way that her security plan is supported by research and hard facts, so is the rest of her government plan. These kinds of accusations of pandering “shrill, populist promises” are not to be taken lightly, much in the way that she does not take lightly the seriousness of the problems we all face and her proposed solutions.

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    • Thanks, Eduarte, for a tough and thought out response. If you want a derecho de replica on the main blog – either this post or something different – I would be happy to yield the space, of course.

      This is where my editor self takes over, though, and I can’t help but give you some tips on how you should develop that post. Personally, I’d like to see you expand on your second-to-last paragraph, which is really the nub of the issue:

      Secondly, as someone who has worked closely in developing MCM´s Plan de Gobierno, I can tell you that her affirmations about being able to bring down the crime rate in 6 months, far from being demagoguery, are the result of months of research and information supplied and endorsed by experts in the field of criminal justice and law enforcement, who have had and still continue to have ample field experience. The truth is that law enforcement bodies know who the criminals are and have identified their whereabouts. Last year alone, the “Plan Madrugonazo al Hampa,” carried out by the CICPC, dismantled 2.412 criminal gangs. Wilson Ramos, the kidnapped major league player, was found after no more than 48 hours thanks to effective police investigation and political will. Rather than training more policemen in the short-run, task-forces of the most competent, best-trained men and women can be deployed, provided they are properly equipped and coordinated between municipal, state and national levels, and carry out an effective reduction in the crime rate within months through targeted work and most importantly, the creation of a tangible deterrent to hitherto unpunished crime. The effects of this multitiered and focalized approach have been proven to be exponential.

      My argument is precisely that the kind of initiative you’re suggesting PRESUPPOSES structural reforms that must take place ahead of time, and can’t be put in place in six months.

      Plan Madrugonazo al Hampa is actually a case in point. As you clearly know, since you’ve been looking into this, 2010-11 saw a big rise in the prison AND jail population as the government tried to step up enforcement measures. But because they did this in isolation of other structural reforms the outcome was a ghastly prison crisis culminating in the insanity we all saw in El Rodeo, working its way through massive overcrowding in Police Station Jails that in turn led to situations like the one in Táchira just last week (http://vprimero.blogspot.com/2012/01/seis-reclusos-muertos-y-8-policias.html), as well as a deepening of the Retardo Procesal crisis brought about when you throw more and more people in jails and prisons without adding judges and prosecutors to handle the new case load. The resulting mix of procesados y sentenciados in the system ends up entrenching a culture of crime by hardening the procesados, who are left to fend for their lives in incredibly dangerous situations.

      Every PARTIAL plan – let’s put more cops on the streets! let’s do a cayapa against retraso procesal! – only deepens the pre-existing bottlenecks in other parts of the criminal justice flow process. If the recent past has taught anything is exactly the hopelessness of going for quick results on the basis of partial plans that leave existing bottlenecks upstream and downstream from the reform nexus untouched.

      So I stand by my initial statement. To say you can achieve results in six months is to demagogue the issue. If you want to argue otherwise, you need to show me how (not tell me that) your plan can achieve quick results GIVEN the existing multiple and overlapping bottlenecks.

      And I hope you do, cuz I’d love to argue this out on the main blog with you.

      (If you’d like, send me an email and we’ll talk it out in person – quicotoro at gmail dot com)

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      • Quico, just a note: I see a big distinction between what you define as achieving results in six months versus what others are interpreting. Literally, or contractually, or facetiously, one less crime per month on the seventh seven is, strictly speaking, a *diminishing* of crime. You seem to be taking the statement of “reducing crime” tantamount to moving closer to the ideal which you have so well described in your earlier crime reduction post in which you detail the many aspects of the issue and how they all are interdependent in considering a total solution. Huge communicational gap.

        Personally, my way of looking at it, however, is that just getting MCM to the presidency would reduce crime by an amount equal to the biggest criminal of Venezuelan history, hugo chavez. That’s a huge amount, in just one day, and it affects *all* the aspects you’ve mentioned!

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        • Your first point is true only if you don’t consider crimes committed inside the jails.

          I guess if you throw in jail the first 30,000 people you round up carrying a weapon or drugs, taking a prison system that was designed for 22,000 inmates from the current utilization of 38,000 people to something nearer 70,000 inmates then yes, it’s probable that in the near term you’d have fewer crimes committed outside those jails.

          But what we saw in El Rodeo and what we see in that jail in Tachira is that really you’re just re-shuffling the deck – trading off murders outside prisons for murders inside them.

          But it’s worse than that, because as Iris Varela is finding out, there’s just no way to sustain higher incarceration rates without building more prisons. There’s just no space. THOSE PEOPLE ARE COMING OUT FOR SURE…and they’re going to come out far more dangerous than they were when they came in. It’s not a question of will, it’s a question of institutional capacity.

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          • ” trading off murders outside prisons for murders inside them.”

            It pains me to say it, but that’s a trade-off I think most Venezuelans would be comfortable with, at least in the short run.

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            • I’m sure. Which is why it wouldn’t surprise me to hear a two-bit politiquín make a promise like this, but it pains me to hear MCM go down that route…

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          • “Your first point is true only if you don’t consider crimes committed inside the jails.”

            I differ with that statement. In or out of jail is irrelevant within the constraint stated: that if she reduces 1 death a month on the seventh month, then her promise can be considered fulfilled by some. In six months I can see her team easily accomplishing a diminishing, even if slight. With no cheekiness intended, I firmly believe that even without changing anything in any of the institutions, cash distribution alone would reduce crime considerably, which is why I don’t rule out that alternative plans could also achieve crime reductions, perhaps even significant ones. The seriousness with which eduarte replied to you leads me to believe that there are serious people backing her to help, who may even be well aware of your take on the having to bring every arm of this crime octopus under control.

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      • Quico, I couldn’t quite pin it down earlier but it seems that you believe that *unless* the crime problem is not handled by addressing all aspects of the related links, then it cannot diminish. I seem to recall that it was pointed out in the comment section of your post that only the weakest link of the any chain need be strengthened to improve a whole chain.

        But even if you don’t only attack the weakest link, there are many other ways to attack every link quickly to accomplish even what you suggest. Granted there’s some out of the box thinking, but it’s possible, especially in 6 months.

        I tend to believe that MCM is serious and has a plan because, why else would she say 6 months? If she was going to be populist, then why so long? If you truly think she’s being populist, then you should be critisizing her for falling short and not promising it in 1 month!

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        • I just think “chain” is a wrong metaphor here. Really, the Criminal Justice System is a flow process, where either the whole thing moves or no part of it moves.

          The better metaphor is a Pipeline – where making any individual section of pipe thicker doesn’t actually improve the performance of the pipe, it just creates bottlenecks downstream.

          If you want to improve a Pipeline’s throughput, you have to widen the whole thing.

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          • Quico,
            That is only true if the section of the pipeline you made thicker was not the bottle neck. I have always thought of Criminal Justice as a production system where the criminal (raw material) flows through a multi step process (police, police jail, court, prison), each which a capacity, a downtime factor, and a Poisson arrival process. If you make the improvement at the bottle neck we can mathematically prove that you will increase the throughput. That is to get criminals into citizens. If the MCM team is able to identify where the bottlenecks are, then they should be able to improve the throughput. If you want to make an argument against the timeline, then you might have an opinion about what particular bottleneck is the critical one and say that that particular one cannot be improved within 6 months.

            In linear pipelines their throughput are set by the slowest step (bottleneck) and downtimes. If you improve a step, then now the throughput will be set to the second slowest. Police Jails for example act as a buffer for courts, well the inmates are held until they can processed. Buffers help you be more robust against downtimes. For example, you can improve your jail capacity to keep burglars out of the street (increase buffer size) or increase your court capacity (you buffer never fills up, unless you have a holiday or a strike or too many judges called in sick that day) to do the same.

            It is a fascinating topic and a lot can be actually modeled and simulated quite easily. Consultants in “normal” countries do these for a living. As you said somewhere else, here is the job of bloggers and forums.

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          • As Rodrigo Linares points out, in flow it’s about the bottleneck, which usually is the narrowest portion of a pipeline and is analogous to the weakest link of a chain.

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            • what if you have successive bottlenecks at every stage. Or, rather, a pipe that’s simply too narrow to do the job?

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            • Successive bottlenecks can’t happen. If they are all the same, the first one is the rate determining bottleneck, so the others no longer are bottlenecks. If the one is wider than the next, then it’s not a bottleneck.

              A single pipe situation that is too small is equivalent to a bottleneck at the start, which, in this case, translates to increased crime, “impune”, because the crimes just don’t enter the pipe to begin with.

              So, taking your premise, crime being committed by the overflow can be reduced quite simply by reducing their reasons for committing the crimes to begin with. For examples, hate speeches, or high economic stressors at home, including lacks of sleep, nutrition, health, job, housing, etc. Helping at any of those factors, will reduce overflow crime.

              If I remember correctly, MCM’s premise is that much of the crime is drug related. In this case, school programs should be enough to begin to have an effect.

              The point is, it’s that just because a flow is too large for a pipe network, especially one as complex as this one, that there are no bypasses that would improve throughput. Assuming that MCM is simply being populist is jumping the gun.

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            • Regardless of the volume you need to get through, by improving the bottleneck you will increase your throughput, or in this case, lower crime. Like you say, it might require to increase the capacity of the whole system to solve completely the crime issue but not for making improvement.

              Also the nature of such improvement should be incremental anyway. The have to start somewhere.

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  24. A few questions that come to my mind:
    – I assume that MCM have talk to some kind of expert in the subject and she says that based on their input. Can any of these “experts” explain us how is that goal even possible?
    – Shouldn’t the securtiy/law enforcement consultants of the MUD have something like a plan to deal with these problem? Is there something like a consensus about it?
    – Why aren’t the journalists asking these tough questions? Are they so cynical about election promises that they just assume that everything is bullshit and it is not worthy to waste time on them?

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