Crime – and nothing else

Mónica Spear and her husband were not the only ones who died yesterday.

There was also Guido Méndez, a university professor, and his mother Glory, both killed inside their Catia apartment. There was Kelvin Tortoza and his friend Alejandro Torres, both in their twenties, shot to death while they were talking on the street in Paracotos. There were many more in other corners of Venezuela. Their stories are just as important, just as shocking.

But there was also another casualty – yesterday, hope for rationality in our public sphere died a little bit too.

Any time somebody in a position of power says that crime is a “societal” problem and that we are all “guilty,” any time these words are uttered in our public sphere … the solution to the problem becomes harder to reach.

I can’t stress this enough, but when a high-ranking official such as the Interior Minister says crime is a problem for “society,” he is indicating he has no clue what to do, that he is overwhelmed by his task. And every day a tool like Rodríguez Torres remains on the job is a day more Venezuelans are senselessly killed.

The link is direct. Rodríguez Torres cashes a paycheck – and people die.

Ultimately, the sad part about this is how many people believe this crap. We’ve all heard it said, by poor and not-so-poor people: “well, what are you going to do?” Even smart people who should know better fall into this line of thinking. I am reminded of the chavistas we met in Parapara two years ago, saying that crime in Mexico or the US was worse. “I watch the Simpsons, I know what those countries are like,” said the ignorant sap.

Society is at fault, ergo nobody is at fault. And until we change society, well … there’s nothing to be done.

To which I say: baloney. Society is the victim here, not the culprit. That disconnect between the government’s actions and people’s day-to-day lives is what is really distressing about the Spear case.

Chavismo’s strategy is quite simple – dilute the problem, wish it goes away on its own, fudge the numbers, and take credit for non-existent gains. If things are bad, it’s society’s fault. If things are good, it’s all thanks to the Revolution.

In the meantime, our people’s civic consciousness is washed away like the sheets at the Bello Monte morgue. When people don’t see the link between the government’s mediocrity and the blood of their loved ones, spilled on the pavement of a Carabobo highway, we’ve lost all hope for rational discourse.

There is very little the opposition can do, of course.

It can’t solve the crime issue because if has no control over judicial policy. Crime is not really about cops, as I wrote in Foreign Policy yesterday – it’s about prosecutors, judges, and prisons, all woefully inadequate in today’s Venezuela, all belonging to the exclusive realm of the government and their Cuban caretakers. This, however, will not prevent the government from shifting the blame to the opposition – can you imagine what they would have said if Spear had died in a Miranda highway?

What the opposition can do, however, is make sure they talk about it nonstop. The crisis is so severe, it makes no sense to talk about anything else, communicational hegemony be damned. Quaint discussions regarding toilet paper or which politician went where for the holidays are about as relevant as arguing over the current tax policy in Syria.

Zero in on the crime issue, folks, because it’s the only thing that matters. We have a society that does not understand the link between public policy and their livelihood, and unless that changes … that’s a society that’s really not worth governing.

132 thoughts on “Crime – and nothing else

  1. I agree with your assessment of what the opposition can do. This issue needs to be hammered nd proposals need to be presented to the public.

    I would also add that the opposition could also try to make a difference AND gain popularity by achieving results in the municipalities and states where it rules. Chacao (Miranda) and San Diego (Carabobo) are two municipalities that have been moderately successful in this regard. Pooling resources (in the Metropolitan District, for example), learning from local success stories, consulting academia, civil society and foreign experts; are measures that could yield results.

    I however disagree with:
    “It can’t solve the crime issue because if has no control over judicial policy. Crime is not really about cops, as I wrote in Foreign Policy yesterday – it’s about prosecutors, judges, and prisons, all woefully inadequate in today’s Venezuela”

    As I commented recently (, reducing crime is not just about punishing bad guys, you also need to protect people from the bad guys that haven’t been caught yet, stop people from turning into bad guys, and turn bad guys back into people.


    • More policing helps, but it’s not a long-term solution. Furthermore, there is little policing you can do when the federal government is cutting your budget or taking away your police force’s weapons.


      • It’s true that a few municipalities have had their guns and patrol cars taken away. But what about the rest of them?

        Part of San Diego’s success is that there are police checkpoints at NIGHT near major neighborhoods. That really makes a difference when it comes to kidnappings, after-party violence and house robberies. San Diego has also achieved a low rate of municipal tax evasion. Unfortunately, no other municipality in Carabobo has taken similar measures.

        There’s also the possibility of training community leaders to mediate conflicts peacefully, teaching young people about non-violent conflict resolution or birth control, job insertion initiatives for young people, etc.

        The video Rodrigo linked to, talks about city initiatives. It hasn’t been picked up by state governments or the federal government, so far as the video shows. Opposition controlled municipalities could at least propose new things, or gasp! try them.


        • Navarro,

          Part of my roots are from San Diego from, literally, time immemorial. There is absolutely no question the local government by Enzo Scarano is doing a lot to try to tackle crime. But please: there are differences between Chacao, San Diego and the rest.

          1) San Diego is currently one of the socially most compact municipalities in Venezuela: most people are relatively middle-class, not the posh of a few areas of Northern Valencia, just simple but middle class nonetheless, a disproportionately large amount of people with university degrees (including lots of relatives and friends). You can see most slums and crime and pro-Chávez people
          are located in the area of La Cumaca area, where lots of people from Vargas, Caracas, the Llanos etc settled down in the last couple of decades.
          2) you have large mountains with steeper curves than on the Puerto Cabello area, not easy for fast escapes, so crime can be mostly located in those hidden valleys plus on the Big Low Center-motorway connection to San Diego proper.

          Scarano also has virtually every single voting centre covered with several witnesses. We knew results and had every single voting acta as fast as it was possible to know there. The opposition had the physical actas of every voting centre at the latest 30 minutes after they had been signed.

          But again: Scarano has to deal with a completely different population.
          Just drive a couple of minutes to the South to Los Guayos and you see a different story
          and I know that because I also have lots of relatives there. I actually went to school in Los Guayos in a school where the regime still wins with a large margin (even if its popularity keeps going down).

          The average voting age in Los Guayos goes down about 2 or 3 years from that of San Diego, which is a LOT when you bear in mind it is average and there is always a delay in the amount of young people who register to vote (the average age difference must be higher)


          • There’s a reason I grouped San Diego and Chacao: those are middle class and upwards municipalities.

            But the same could be said of El Hatillo. In fact, I’d dare say El Hatillo is way more well-to-do than San Diego. Yet kidnappings and home robberies are anything but controlled in that area. It also has the difficulties to get in and out you attribute to San Diego, so clearly El Hatillo has been severely underperforming.

            There might be other municipalities in Venezuela comprised mostly of a middle class and upwards population which could benefit from similar policies.

            We have homework pending on figuring out which policies work in middle-class on average municipalities like Baruta or Naguanagua (with well-to-do neighborhoods, middle class-neighborhoods, working class neighborhoods and some slums); and which policies work in middle class and below municipalities like Los Guayos or Petare (with some upper middle class, some middle class, some working class, and lots of slums).


            • Sorry, but in Los Guayos the only upper middle class are the chinos de la esquina and the chinos del otro abasto :-)
              We used to have a couple of nice-middle class there in the seventies but they probably moved. Now it’s low middle class (the core of Los Guayos) and really lower class around.
              Los Guayos was still little more than a village in the seventies. Now the municipality has exploded into something over 120 000 inhabitants, the most densely populated.
              As a relative of mine who lives there says: la mayoría no viene de allí.
              Probably there are some drug dealers there who have some dosh, but I don’t know how to classify them as for classes.
              There is not a single public library in that place, not a general hospital. Here in the Flemish village where I live we have a hospital that has as many beds as Valencia’s only general hospital…and a public library that is just as “big” as the tiny one Valencia – with over 1100 000 inhabitants, without counting Naguanagua, Los Guayos etc- has.

              One of the issues in Venezuela is that all those areas have grown without any sort of urbanization control. And this leads us to a problem I have mentioned before: most Venezuelans even in the so-called “urban” areas (all those slums and shitty urbanizations around the main cities and even the secondary and tertiary cities) live in housing that is not legal. Even most of the social houses are built in land that belong to the State or where no property rights are clear.
              Those places grow without proper control, without an environment for sustainable development in the socioeconomic sense (much less in the environmental one, but I suppose that one is seen as out of this world by most Venezuelans)


              • Los Guayos has seen some recent development. There are places like in Buenaventura, in Paraparal, where new apartments/houses are being sold at VEF 900.000 – 1.000.000 perhaps even VEF 1.500.000. Those are medium sized gated communities, think 1000 families, and more are coming. (,+Los+Guayos,+Municipio+Aut%C3%B3nomo+Los+Guayos,+Carabobo,+Venezuela&hl=es&ie=UTF8&ll=10.179527,-67.889757&spn=0.031722,0.045447&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=51.754532,93.076172&geocode=FaxUmwAduu3z-w&hnear=Av+Ppal.+Buenaventura,+Municipio+Aut%C3%B3nomo+Los+Guayos,+Carabobo,+Venezuela&t=m&z=15&iwloc=A)

                The main buyers of these house are professional employees from General Motors, Corimon, Venezolana de Pinturas, Polar, Paveca, Heinz, Ford, etc. Since VEF 1.000.000 represents more than 300 current monthly minimum wages, or 25 years of the current minimum wage, and residents tend to have cars, college degree and a white collar job, I count that as middle class.

                Middle class is buying there, because is cheaper than San Diego and maybe Naguanagua while being close to their industrial zone jobs.

                While it’s true Los Guayos doesn’t have Hospitals or Universities, or a good infraestructure. I think you may have an outdated image of the municipality.

                And I do agree urban planning has become an exotic notion in our country.


              • I will concede that Los Guayos probably has zero upper middle class residents, since they tend to move to San Diego, Naguanagua or Valencia.


              • Sure, that is middle class but there is a difference between “middle class” and upper middle class, whether it’s in Germany or in Venezuela.
                I do no not think “upper middle class” accounts for more than 2% of Venezuela’s population. These guys belong to the middle class but they are still in the minority in Los Guayos. For me, I repeat, they do not belong to “upper middle class”.
                I don’t think there are many upper middle class even in San Diego and I have family there and I don’t think being an engineer and having credit cards already qualifies you as “upper middle class”…unless, that is, the class differentiation is purely based on Venezuelan references, how percentiles of the population.

                As for the price of housing: right now I think it is very difficult to say “well, it costs XXX, that’s even more expensive than in Hamburg (often so), so they must be upper middle class”. The market in Venezuela is just completely not right.
                In Venezuela an old car that I would have difficulty in selling here would cost a fortune.


              • I think my “upper middle class” reference muddled my point. It would be best said as municipalities like Los Guayos (and Petare): a little middle class, some working class and lots of slums.


  2. “when a high-ranking official such as the Interior Minister says crime is a problem for “society,” he is indicating he has no clue what to do, that he is overwhelmed by his task”

    That phrase is precise and brilliant. Absolutely. And that’s the problem. When I cited the video yesterday, Gary Slutkin, argues that people told him that to solve crime he had to solve Everything on Earth (EoE). This is to solve inequality, education, etc. Such view of the problem is paralyzing. Not to Torres but to everyone. But it a false conception of violence. Because you can commit a crime, but when you are shot even if no things were taken or even if you cooperated, then that’s another ordeal.

    Venezuela is suffering from a mental illness.

    And we had in the past. In the 19th century Venezuela was an extremely violent nation. So was Spain during the civil war. Today’s anarchy (like that in Nazi Germany o Fraco’s Spain) has created a land where brutality is king.

    The crucial problem with Chavismo (and another similitude with Lusinchi) its their inability to break down a problem into pieces and make a plan. A plan to do anything. Not even an ice cream factory they could handle. Much less could the handle macroeconomic policy, fiscal regulation, oil industry, public health, or public safety.


    • “Today’s anarchy (like that in Nazi Germany o Fraco’s Spain) has created a land where brutality is king. ”

      I don’t understand this quote? Neither Nazi Germany nor Franco’s Spain had a violent crime problem, or crime problems in general.


      • The problem is not crime. It is violence. The thing is that in Nazi Germany nor in Franco’s Spain the violence towards certain sectors of the population was not, under the state apparatus, a crime.

        There is a very important distinction to make between crime and violence. They are related but there are different problem requiring different solutions.


  3. Brilliant piece, Juan.
    Now, I insist we MUST tell the average Venezuelan non-opposition voter how the murder rate nationwide compares in Venezuela versus the rest of South America and how it compared in 1998. Few will see the light but every person counts. Most Venezuelans don’t see beyond their noses and beyond their immediate memories of welfare.


  4. I don’t see why my post was single out as “crap”, Juan.
    I think you simply did not understand it.

    But, in any case, Juan, you should be more careful with your writing and not fall in the trap of
    disavowing with a bulldozer anything that you *perceive* as being contrary to
    your point.


    • Bruni, I didn’t say your post was crap, you know I value your writing tremendously, so I regret the misunderstanding. But I have a very deep disagreement with your assessment. Your stories about crime a long time ago make it sound like this is an issue that has always been present, when reality is that crime has exploded in a way that is very much a direct consequence of chavista public policies. I think your post muddles the issue in a very dangerous, non-constructive way.


      • The fact remains that violent crime started in the 60’s, and went on increasing and exploded during the Chavista years becoming a real civil war. Venezuela is *de-facto* in a civil war.

        If you forget that, you miss the root of the problem that can lead towards the solution.

        The government is currently to blame because they were not able to deal with the problem and Chavez, in particular, created a climate of hate that worsened the situation. But just thinking that changing the government will change the problem is wishful thinking. A problem of such a magnitude can only be solved with radical measures and yes, with a change of values in society.

        That was the key message of the post.


        • OK, you ignore the context that does not suit you.
          The murder rate in Venezuela of Gómez time was as high as 19 murders per 100 000 inhabitants. The highest percentage by far were back then in Falcón and above all Lara.
          I don’t know but it might have to do with the very large quantities of cucuy. Perhaps Rodrigo’s grandparents had some recollection about that. The murder rate actually went down after Gómez kicked the bucket. I don’t have the numbers after that until the seventies but it was then fluctuating around 8 murders per 100 000…and then it went whoops to 19, stabilized there and went up in an unprecedented manner after that.

          When Humboldt came to Venezuela he said the Llanos were highly dangerous and no one would travel there without being on a convoy. He also said if the government of Spain didn’t pay attention to the development of the Llanos, a room for criminals and slaves escaping the coast, the Llanos would come back to HAUNT US. He wrote that 200 years ago.
          And then Chávez came.


        • Yes, other governments weren’t efficient when it came to fighting crime, but they were better than this one. The fact that crime has gone from “high” to “intolerable” is squarely the responsibility of this administration.


          • Agree, Juan and GEHA. A rise of 500% criminality in 15 years of one administration certainly carries by far a tonnage that previous administrations need not shoulder — as much.
            Bruni: A look at statistics on an annual and periodic basis should reveal a stronger perspective than what the liberty of lyricism can provide. Meanwhile, no one speaks directly about the roots of this criminality like Daniel Duquenal, whose two recent posts in, go straight to cause, at least in my mind.


        • Mi problema con tu post se resume en esta frase:

          “Es cierto que al gobierno el país se les fue de las manos. Pero también es cierto que si el gobierno cambia mañana, nada habrá cambiado, porque las raíces de la delincuencia son mucho más profundas.”

          ¿Nada habrá cambiado? O sea, ¿da lo mismo quién gobierne porque a la larga es un problema endémico de la sociedad venezolana? Me violenta esa percepción del problema.

          Yo estoy convencido de que si mañana cambiásemos al gobierno por alguien medio pensante, en seis meses comenzaríamos a ver una baja significativa en la criminalidad, y en un par de años volveríamos a niveles promedio de crímen. Otros países lo han hecho, ¿por qué nosotros no?

          Sorry Bruni, pero en esto tenemos diferencias profundísimas.


          • Solo con el efecto inmediato de que l8s malandros no se sientan guapos apoyados y sean financiados por el gobierno bajaría la criminalidad.
            Vamos con ejemplos concretos, Medellín. En Medellín disminuyó la criminalidad de manera dramática por qué haya habido un cambio de “valores ” de los ciudadanos o por las reformas policiales y del sistema de justicia que se implementaron en Colombia?
            Creo que hay que tener mucho cuidado con las genetalizaciones, por supuesto que los venezolanos se han vuelto mâs agresivos y violentos en ka calle, pero la gran mayoría no son asesinos y la tasa de asesinatos tiene más que ver con la impunidad y la falta de protección policial que con una crisis de valores
            en Venezuela la criminalidad no aumentó por una crisis de valores, sino por el colapso de los sistemas policiales y de justicia, ya de por si corruptos,ante el crecimiento indiscriminado de la población y la crisis económica. Ya luego vino el chavismo que casi de una manera conciente y deliberada prosiguió políticas que llevaron lo que era un problema grave al nivel de plaga


            • “Creo que hay que tener mucho cuidado con las genetalizaciones”

              Couldn’t agree more, must be very careful here.

              Or as we’d say in criollo: “De bolas que si !”


          • Cambiar el gobierno de por sí, no cambia nada. Lo que hay que cambiar es la estructura que crea el problema. Yo tengo varias ideas y quizás haga un post específicamente sobre eso.

            Con lo que no estoy de acuerdo es con la visión simplista de que un cambio de gobierno cambia todo instantáneamente…depende de quién venga, de cuáles son las propuestas y de si estamos hablando del corto o largo plazo.

            Bastante oì yo que si Chávez se iba los problemas del país se acababan. Y ahora vemos que el problema no era Chávez, el problema es el país que elegía a Chávez. Hasta que el país no cambie, los problemas seguirán.


              • Y quién ha dicho que las políticas públicas no importan? Yo soy la primera gran defensora de políticas públicas universales y eficientes y pienso además, que todo esto se resuelve con buenas políticas públicas. A éso mismo me refiero cuando hablo de “estructura” en mi comentario de arriba.

                Lo que pasa, Juan, es que tu interpretación de mi post es maniqueista como que si decir que este es un problema estructural y que comenzó hace años implique que no se pueda hacer nada. Todo lo contrario, hay que hacer, pero hay que saber que hay que cambiar *radicalmente* la manera de enfrentar el problema. Con poner “mano dura” y decretar leyes cada vez más punitivas, como algunos quisieran, no se consigue nada, porque lo que hay que hacer es justamente atacar con políticas públicas el corazón del problema


              • Pardon the pun, but ya’ll are walking over a dead body. The more crime goes up, the better the justification for what we all know is coming, a military takeover. Maduro will be the Comandante


            • Al llegar un nuevo gobierno y despedir de su cargo a un ministro que es un asesino y a una ministra que quisiera ser pran y colocar gente que realmente sepa del tema y decir se acabó la impunidad lograriamos más que lo que el chavismo ha logrado en 15 años. Ellos han estimulado la ola criminal porque les interesa, sus grupos armados amedrentan a quien le hace mala cara al gobierno y en el tiempo libre secuestran y matan. Claro que cambiaría algo tener un gobierno diferente, que chávez haya muerto no cambió nada porque el gobierno siguió siendo el mismo o peor.


          • Exacto! Claro que podría cambiar algo.

            Podrían cambiar las políticas públicas, como:
            * coordinar mejor con gobernaciones o alcaldías sin tanto partidismo, se engranaría mejor el CICPC, Polinacional, policias regionales, policias municipales.
            * las prioridades del gasto público: menos sukhoi y más patrullas/motos/chalecos antibala
            * la actitud laxa con las faltas: gente orinando en las aceras, buhoneros en aceras y peatones en la calle, estudiantes que aprueban bachillerato a punta de exámenes de recuperación, motorizados a contravía/en aceras, etc.
            * más descentralización: autopistas, puertos y aeropuertos en manos regionales, más recursos para gobiernos regionales y locales, más iniciativas regionales y locales.
            * más expertos menos ideólogos: más consultas con la academia, con las ONGs, con gremios, casos de éxitos extranjeros, etc.

            Ahora reina la actitud de que en Venezuela no se puede hacer nada. Estamos como la pulga y el piojo (serenata guayanesa).


          • I agree with Juan in this. Murders went from 5000 in 1998 to roughly 25000 in 2013. That is a 5 fold increase that coincided squarely with the new government. So the government is to blame and the first necessary step to reduce crime is to change the government because this government is incapable of solving the problem even if it wanted to.

            There have always been atrocious crimes in Venezuela and everywhere else. The issue is the crime explosion. That has nothing to do with the culture of the people, it has all to do with impunity. If the criminals are given free reign they will spread, grow and become more brazen. But those that commit murders are always a small fraction of the population, the rest of the people love to live in a peaceful and crime free environment.

            So the problem is not society is the institutions in charge of preventing crimes and that is where the solutions must be found. The culture that matters is not the society’s culture but the culture inside of those institutions. Right now the culture of all governmental institutions is that they must hide whatever makes them look bad and pretend that everything is ok with them. Actual results do not matter, just the image that “la revolucion” is great. Strict fealty and lies are their values. That is why they are completely incapable.


          • Like my mom and dad would say, with Perez Jimenez we used to sleep with the lock of our door open. They also said, if you were not a “cabeza caliente” and nothing to do with politics, you could be as safe as you can imagine. How come nobody have mentioned this yet? You know why? Because of the work of Pedro Estrada.

            This is the thing, taken the bad part of the political prosecution that happened during the times of the seguridad nacional, the guy was extraordinary good doing his job. Co founder of interpol, consulted for Sûreté and many other important polices all over the world.

            And not that far from Estrada, CAP also was a very good police, I think he came from that area before becoming president.

            Am I endorsing political prosecution under Perez Jimenez? No. Do I wish we have another “Don Pedro” in Venezuela, hell yes. Because malandros didn’t even think to commit a crime thinking there were gonna be sent to the famous calabozos from seguridad nacional. Human rights? Well no, but malandros cannot care less about human rights. There is a type of criminal that doesn’t deserve the whole human right thingy and forgive my politically incorrectness.

            The whole point of my comment was to take the good things of those years, that was, a Venezuela with very little crime. There is people still alive who learned from him.


          • This is how I see it. (1) When Chavez first secured the presidency, he could not implement policies because of opposition from Governors and Mayors and various local government entities. So, he was forced to “centralize” government to get around them. (2) Centralized government is horrible in handling local issues! In fact Centralized government gets easily overwhelmed with local issues. So, local issues didn’t get handled, and local problems escalated. (3) Centralized government also created a bureaucracy with inefficiencies, corruption, and an entrenched bureaucratic political insurgency. (4) The bureaucracy was purged and politicized which resulted in an alliance between followers and power mongers that escalated into what might be considered a fascist movement. (5) The concept of “Common Good” and “Good Governance” went out the window.

            So, my thinking is that the “culture”, weaknesses of Latin American values, and so on don’t by themselves explain how things got here. Anyway, reversing the quagmire is a pragmatic issue that needs a strategy and a plan of action.


    • Yeah, murder has always been present and “the poor knew more about it before”,
      but even in the very slums the murder rate more than exploded, just in the same proportion.
      If you plot the murder rate we Venezuelans have had across time (I actually have some data from Gómez time), see the hike in the late eighties and early nineties and then see what happened from 1999 we see we are at a completely different level.
      If you plot the same stuff with data from countries such as Brazil and Colombia and the rest of South America you see we are really on a different league and the real madness started when Chávez started to applaud the choros and tell them that they were like the man in Hugo’s Les Miserables who stole the loaf to feed his sick child, when he shifted ministers of interior at a rate of one every year (people who were complete incapable like Chacón et alia) and so on.


  5. One baffling thing about the Official narrative is that crime is supposed to be one of the ugly consequences of poverty and this govt presumes of having substantially lowered the levels of poverty and of having spent zillions attacking its sequels which should translate into a drop in the crime rates and yet the total opposite is happening , the incidence and severity of crime is increasing with every passing year . Now how the hell do you explain that ??
    Something gives in the narrative , crime rate should be falling not rising , For fifteen years the govt has been ferociously fighting poverty , making the life of the poor so much better , allowing them to eat so much more than before that their increased food intake is creating a food supply crisis of great propportions , and yet crime rises , young people in the barrios with their new communal organizations now provide outlets of sports and education to improve the lot of youths and their response is to become criminals , savage criminals in ever increasing numbers . So Crime is a social problems , but then isnt the solution of social problems the leif motif of Chavismo ?? isnt solving social problems what they ve dedicated themselves to during the last 15 years ?? and yet this social problem is growing worse and worse .!! Reality is giving a big lie to all the specious and pretentious claims of the regime , to the truth of its narrative , this is a failed regime even where it claims to be a success. !!


    • I will concede that the poverty situation has improved in Venezuela, perhaps not as much as the government claims or desires, but it is better than twenty years ago. It has been statistically beaten to death that crime and poverty go hand in hand, so one would assume that there should be less rather than more crime.

      I think that the inconsistency comes from the degree of poverty reduction and from the institutional corrosion that has occurred in the meantime in relationship to the real cost of perpetrating a crime.

      For example, assume I donate a large sum of money to a poverty-stricken village in India where the daily income is, say, $1. for the average resident and opportunistic crimes are rampant. Through my benevolence, their daily income is now $1.30, a 30% increase in income and now exceeding the WB threshold for poverty. Is crime now likely to subside? Are these people, who are no longer poor, suddenly “working class”? We all know that the answer to both, in reality, is no. They steal feel, and more importantly “think” that they are poor. So the opportunity cost, if you will, of committing a crime, is still insufficient to deter them from doing so.

      Likewise, when you combine the above with the a complete implosion of the government’s ability to both intervene in criminality and punish it, the opportunity cost is depressed even further. Prison in Venezuela, at this point, is both an unlikely outcome for real criminals and only deters those who likely would not commit crimes anyway.

      The government (or any government, since this one seems unable to cope) needs to restore credibility in its institutions by reforming them. Professional policing, likely backed initially by the military, independent and efficient court systems with normal expectations of outcomes for convictions, and lastly, a prison system (and its relative alternatives for non-violent offenders) that actually punishes criminals rather than creating environments that reward them, are all things in dire need in Venezuela.

      Likewise, social policies that combat the lack of economic opportunities for the youth, or provide constructive social and economic activities, should be priorities. This includes fixing the education system such that schools are both respected as community centers as well as houses of education, that develops the core of the community and promotes civic pride (which is something I’ve noticed is extremely lacking in most municipalities in Venezuela).

      Currently in Venezuela, the majority of the poor and no-longer-poor have few economic opportunities outside of the informal economy and crime. Would you, in their shoes, prefer to sell pirated DVDs on the streets for a few bolos, or rob someone that gives you the equivalent of several weeks equivalent pay peddling DVDs? Given the ongoing evidence, which do you think they are choosing?

      I know, it seems like a tall order, but until these things are at least started, nothing will change. The polarization continues, the haves despise the havenots for what they do, and the havenots despite the haves for what they possess. Chavez’s legacy continues.


      • I was being ironic when I referred to the success of the regime-s poverty fighting efforts because for many poverty is not simply giving people money to consume more , its about giving them the mental and material capacity to be productive so they can improve their life standards in a sustainable way . To me there is no such reduction in poverty only a largely futile and very disorganized and costly effort at mitigating some of its overt symptoms . Whats worse its the mentality which poverty breeds ( the victimized gimme mentality ) that makes many of the poor become the unwitting accomplices of their own poverty.and the regime has done nothing to remedy that . I entirely agree with you that the worsening situation of the country is due in a large part to the ‘institutional corrosion’ brought about by the Chavez regime .


  6. By the way the idea that by declaring everyone responsible the culprit of a misdeed is attempting to scape his own direct blame by endorsing it onto everybody was pointed out by none other than Hannah Arendt when referring how in post War germany this declaration was made again and again by former nazis to avoid being singled out for nazi crimes .


    • Maybe BB but of course everyone is to blame..I lived in Venezuela when they first voted Chavez in, and he won by a landslide.Probably most of what makes up the opposition today was Chavista in that election.And nobody has done what it takes to change the regime no matter how you look at it.With the attitude that we are not to blame we can hardly empower ourselves to change things…because we certainly cannot change others.


  7. It’s political science 101, the state has the monopoly on violence and punishment, people surrenders that to live in society. Therefore, as we renounce any right to exercise violence but in extreme circumstances such as self defense., the State is responsible for my security, my only duty is to obide by the law, noyhing else. I really can’t believe that we are having this conversation in Venezuela.
    The government is just cashing in the typical reaction of older generation to the change in social mores, the “lost of values” speech. Everywhere in the world there is a change in social values, newer generations are more sexually liberal and less religious, that does not translate into the murder rate growing 500%.


    • The murder rate has grown 500% because for this 15-year old government, the protection of its society as a whole, the maintenance of the country’s infrastructure (one of which is ‘vialidad’) have become irrelevant. More important is the safeguarding of and the cashing in on the drug pipeline (=easy money), after Colombian routes were tightened. Y el pueblo? Mirrors and trinkets to give the appearance of caring. But fundamental and deep-rooted goodness? Fuggedaboutit.

      I’m not hopeful.

      Meanwhile, someone is being royally protected:


      • Que arrechera sorry. I know he is a official figure and all that, but I wish he could take the bus he used to drive and don’t need that much protection and be safe, him and any Venezuelan.

        Remember the 70s when a big chunck of Venezuelans strolled around wearing gold rolexes and diamonds? (I only can say the 70s because I wasn’t around before)


        • yes, 50s, 60s, 70s. But by the time the Caracas metro opened for business in the late 1970s, it was not a good idea to wear valuables in the city — jewels and watches could be robbed in broad daylight. The problem was not as bad as in certain Colombian cities — but the fear in Caracas was building. (It was also bad and getting worse in Manhattan, where in the late 1970’s, my mother was accosted one afternoon, at knife point by a ‘malandro’ who wanted her necklace. But I digress.) Kidnapping and murders were not unknown, but they were not the norm they have become since 1998, notwithstanding the forced giggling by a cynical Andrés Izarra.


    • Except the Venezuelan State doesn’t have a monopoly on violence. There’s fierce competition from lots of start-ups, popularly called gangs.

      Some slums have several start-ups competing to consolidate a corner their own niche market. In some areas, like 23 de Enero, the monopoly on violence is actually exercised by a small competitor like Tupamaros. In some other areas, in border some regions at the border it’s excercised by small-medium sized foreign competitors like FARC or paramilitary groups.

      That’s one of the reasons I toy with the idea of the Brazilian approach, military first, then police brigades, then community police + social services. I explain it metaphorically as the Venezuelan State “annexing” those territories, beginning with military occupation, squashing the resistance, and then peace keeping+reconstruction+health services+education.


      • I know. What I mean, is that, only on paper, Venezuelan is a western democracy, where the State has the monopoly on violence, and is therefore morally and legally responsible for the safety of it’s citizens. The only obligation of the citizens is not to brake the law.


  8. Isn’t it a society problem if society keeps voting in the people who don’t care about solving their problems? …as long as they’re (politicians) sticking it to the rich?


  9. If a normal country is at war, with its citizens violently dying every single day, and the government not doing anything to resolve this, I imagine that the opposition political discourse would be focused on this issue almost exclusively, drowning out discourse or concerns about any other matters. Protests would be organized not for freedom of the press, or for democracy, or to support a candidate, but simply to protest against people being murdered in the streets of their country every single day without any protection or justice.
    Venezuela is pretty much at war with its criminal population (can you argue otherwise?). I honestly don’t know how this does not dominate opposition discourse to the exclusion of almost anything else except when a famous person dies.
    I have to hand it to Chavismo: their communicational hegemony is effective and their ability to deflect blame and basically play with and manipulate opposition discourse is short of brilliant…


  10. Bruni has a point in stating that the deteriorating social conditions among the poor that have now snowballed into the huge violent crime rate we suffer had its beginnings sometime in the 80’s or early 90’s as the family safety net that kept children partially protected started fraying more and more as marginal population numbers begun to explode and the situation of abandoned children became endemic . That doesnt mean that the govt is any less to blame for current conditions for it was part of its duty to try and fight crime and at least make an attempt to identify and attack the underlying causes of the growing crime wave . Instead it glorified the criminal because of its victim of capitalism status and tried to look another way to concentrate in the only thing that mattered , making believe that they were magically solving povertys problems and hounding the opposition to gain absolute control over the institutions so as to monopolize power indefinitely. They are so obsessed with the mediatic waging of a political war to destroy their enemies that they ve really lost any interest in creating the conditions to improve peoples lifes any lasting and productive way. Ive already spoken in this blog of my dealings with Barrio doctors who started seeing a deterioration in the bodily and mental development of barrio children beginning in the early nineties as mothers stopped bringing their sick children to the doctors and aging grannies started acting proxy mothers for them .


  11. “it’s about prosecutors, judges, and prisons, all woefully inadequate in today’s Venezuela, all belonging to the exclusive realm of the government and their Cuban caretakers.”

    There are many factors that contribute( political strategy, drug trafficking etc.) however I would like to mention another factor heretofore unmentioned that I can recall, which is a certain cultural underpinning that encourages people to more readily accept this situation…..a misunderstanding of the concept of ” freedom” and the consequences of an unhealthy respect for chaos .

    A true story from the Book” In Search of the Jaguar, Growth and Paradox in Venezuela” :

    “On the night that I came to this country someone had crept into the darkened zoo in the city of Merida, high in the Andes.The man, whom the newspapers called ” the lover of animals” , had opened the doors of the cages of the jaguars.And tow of the caged animals had escaped into the night.In the city, the morning after, there was no panic.The marketplace was crowded and the traffic did not diminish and children played a new game called ” the jaguar”.

    The man who had opened the cages of the jaguars had left a note.It said: “The jaguars are not being treated with dignity.So I have freed them.”

    And in the city it was said :” The jaguars have gone home to the mountains.No one can live in someone else’s cage.”One man said to me : That man, he did not free the jaguars.He has freed himself.It is not the Venezuelan way to live in a cage”


  12. I agree with Juan’s assessment that it is more about the Judicial system (courts, prisons, re-hab, etc.) than about cops.

    If you look at New York City pre- Giuliani, crime was pretty bad, cops were especially corrupt as was the local judiciary.

    Cops flooded the streets under Giuliani, and the judiciary was (relatively) cleaned up and crime started to go down.

    Not that NYC is a paragon of crime-less living, but it certainly is a lot better than it was, and that is because both sides of the equation were tackled (cops & judiciary).

    In Venezuela, by and large, criminals are better armed in many cases than the police, the judiciary is a joke and prisons are schools for hoodlums and gangsters. Cops are either not motivated to do their jobs (for many reasons) or use their jobs to provide more opportunities for crime. How many kidnappings are actually executed by cops? Tons!!

    Certainly education and civic based mechanisms are going to need to flourish in order to tackle the problem, but I think it all starts in the Judiciary in the case of Venezuela.

    That 95% or so of crimes go unpunished by the courts is a serious problem, it takes away the consequences for committing a crime and sends the message that with money, or influence, there is little to no downside for criminal behavior. It also can generate more violence as citizens with the means or opportunity decide to take Justice into their own hands. This just feeds more violence into the cycle, and so we go down the drain.

    There is a part of me (and I’m sure many others) that feels that the short term solution is to simply execute the worst of the worst and eliminate their presence from society, however long term this is not particularly effective. The more rational side of me knows and acknowledges that this can breed more problems and that morally it is wrong to take another one’s life, regardless, but still, there are days………….

    I once was robbed at gunpoint, and after the choros took what they came for (our payroll) they gave their backs to me and walked away as calm as anything. What they did not know was that in the small of my back I had a 9mm pistol, loaded and ready to go.

    I could have shot them both dead, and believe me I thought about it, but reason prevailed and I withheld my anger and fear and counted my blessings that no one got hurt. I did file a report with the police, gave them full and accurate descriptions and of course nothing happened. Just like to anyone who was not the son of some important politician or “famous person”.

    There are times, though, when I wonder if by letting them go I may have allowed them to rob more people (surely they did, these weren’t rookies), or whether anyone died at a later time at the hands of either of them.

    The opposition can do barely more than keep the issue front and center. Even in their fiefdoms, with the best police force in the world they will accomplish nothing until the courts do their job too. And as we all know, the judiciary does nothing without guidance from Maduro and his crowd, so fat chance that they’ll help the opposition localities look like they are doing something to solve anything.


    • Roberto,

      I doubt that Giuliani’s ‘0’ tolerance would go over well with the general population in Venezuela.


      • Well, FP, what do you suggest?

        DO you think we are at the point where there is much of a choice?

        What is your solution?

        More efficient, in person, beat walking cops combined with a Judiciary that works (hell, I’ll take a 50% resolution rate over the 5% resolution rate we have now) and a re-balancing of the prison population will go far towards curing our crime sickness. I’m no expert, but I think this would be a starting point.

        Simply stating you don’t think something will not work adds nothing to the discussion.


    • Very hard to compare NYC to Caracas because in NYC you had a system where laws were actually enforceable. When Giuliani mandated greater focus on punishing, and harsher penalties for, petty crimes (in addition to more cops, one of the key drivers of general crime reduction), there were courts that could actually enforce these measures.

      So what it all comes down to is lack of willingness in part of the government to address the real issue, which is a corrupt judiciary that can’t enforce the law. Why is this not rallying cry of the opposition?


      • Culture trumps politics every time.Who votes for the politicians?It is so easy for a populist to win . Education to influence popular decision must include an opposition campaign that helps people understand the consequences of certain decisions.At first it will not be successful, but over time it could help.The opposition needs to be brave and stand on principle.If people are brave and show real leadership they can inspire others.


      • That’s my point, enforceable laws. No functioning Judiciary, no enforceable law.

        Why is this not a rallying cry of the opposition?

        Maybe they figure if they push too hard they’ll be in front of a kangaroo court a lot sooner than they normally would?

        For what that’s worth, they oughta figure they screwed one way or the other, so what do they have to lose?


    • For what is worth. I think you did the right thing. Is not your duty to fight crime gun in hand. Had you killed/wounded one or both of them you would have been in a world of pain with the court system and their families/associates possibly looking for retaliation or compensation, not to mention the consequences for your own mental health. The institutions should solve those problems.

      The main problem is that the police didn’t do anything. They are the ones that allowed those criminals to continue robbing and possibly killing someone in the future. Those future crimes are on them not you. You did your part.


    • “If you look at New York City pre- Giuliani, crime was pretty bad, cops were especially corrupt as was the local judiciary.

      Cops flooded the streets under Giuliani, and the judiciary was (relatively) cleaned up and crime started to go down.”

      There was certainly corruption issues, but it wasn’t the main or one of the main issues involved. Crime begin dropping in the last years of the previous mayor, and continued to drop under Guliani. His time in NY coincided with a steady, significant decrease in crime and violent crime all throughout the country*, so it’s not easy to know how much of the improvement was solely due to Guliani and his team’s approach.

      *The reasons for which are not completely agreed on.


      • Errr, only that Giuliani was very much a key actor on that trend, and very specifically in the city of New York. If you want to know he really was working hard into ending organized crime until sept 11 when priorities changed. He was very successful hitting the 5 mafia families of the NY area on his US attorney for the southern district of New York during the 80s. A life time of crime fighting, hello.


        • I agree mostly, just that the common narrative that Guliani came in and suddenly solved NYC’s crime problem is rather simplistic. The crack epidemic had begin to ebb before he took office.

          Anyway, if Caracas could get to 80s level NYC crime it would be nothing short of a miracle.


  13. Can someone explain to me the purpose of having police road blocks in Caracas? In Baruta, by the Vizcaya Park, there’s always one and all they do is delay traffic. Last week, at this broad block, a motorcyclist just rode zig-zagging around the cones. The cops, 5 of them, just laughed because they thought it was funny. When it was my turn to drive by the cops I just stared at them as asked them if they thought it was funny, and they said yes and kept laughing. Near the Polideportivo is another place where they set up check points. Here people block the traffic, driving the wrong way of the road, …. and the police? Fine, thank you. On the Boulevard, there are cops at almost every traffic light, still people in cars and motorcycles run through red lights, make right turns from the middle lane, stop at the pedestrian crossings, etc.

    If this is what the Baruta police is going to do, the Municipio might as well save the money they pay this department and use it to fix pot holes. Sending the Alcaldia a note on their web site leads to no response.


  14. “There is very little the opposition can do, of course.” I disagree. Consider the assumption that the opposition would be able to reduce crime if it were in power. That is, the opposition would have saved some lives if it had won the election. Now ask yourself, was there anything that the opposition did not do to increase its chances of winning that election, thus enabling the saving of those lives?

    Here’s another angle. chavez stated at least once something to the effect that he would not blame the poor for resorting to crime. Assuming a portion of society bought into that thinking, and are at best thinking nothing wrong of those resorting to crime for money, is there anything the opposition could do that would take that premise off the table. That is, is there anything the opposition could offer so that no one has the excuse of poverty for resorting to crime whilst those in their own neighborhood look the other way because they almost see the chavez rationality behind it?

    Sorry, but a huge thing the opposition can do is wake up to reality and stop trying to get the majority of the nation to think like it does, and instead it should learn to understand things like:

    “And we’ll never be royals (royals)
    It don’t run in our blood
    That kind of lux just ain’t for us, we crave a different kind of buzz
    Let me be your ruler (ruler)
    You can call me queen bee
    And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule
    Let me live that fantasy

    “My friends and I we’ve cracked the code
    We count our dollars on the train to the party
    And everyone who knows us knows
    That we’re fine with this, we didn’t come from money
    [Lorde – Royals Lyrics | MetroLyrics ]”

    Distribute the natural resources income.


    • Torres, God Bless you mano, but while I believe that Unconditional Cash Transfers of our Petro and other Wealth is a good thing, it all boils down to getting the Judiciary to actually be halfway honest and decent in order to begin to even make headway against crime.

      Distribute all you want, if you don’t curb crime it’ll be the criminals counting the money on the Metro to Propatria or wherever, after they’ve held up the poor schmuck who just cashed his “Mi Torres” dividend check.

      Simply throwing money at people ain’t gonna fix this. It’ll help, but we need a lot more.


      • Roberto N, if you look for it, you will not find anywhere me stating that distributing cash is the going to fix this. Of course much more is needed. My point is that without distributing cash, you hardly have a chance of fixing this.

        Here’s a twist on the same logic: Why isn’t the opposition as outraged about the people without charges in prison who have already been in prison longer than what their maximum sentence could possibly be if they had been tried and declared guilty?

        Would you consider that way of getting through to the mentality of the poor without distributing cash, and at the same time fighting injustice?


      • By the way, Roberto N, with my proposal, there is no dividend, and there is no check… And there would certainly be no excuse for the criminal, which I hope you are not implying they don’t have as things stand today.


        • The idea the poverty is related to crime is defunct.

          Venezuela has a crime problem, but more so, it has a violence problem. Violence is also not correlated with income inequality or poverty.

          As I agree UCT are a good thing, it is not a silver bullet and it is not the only way to fix this problem and I would go as far as saying that UCT would do little to fix it.


          • Rodrigo Linares, poverty is related to crime. Remember that correlation does not prove causation, and neither does lack of correlation prove lack of causation. If you believe education is related to crime, and you must agree that poverty affects education, then you must accept poverty being related to crime via education.

            In Venezuela’s particular case, chavez drilled into people’s minds the notion that it was OK to turn a blind eye towards those who commit crime if they come from poverty. That, alone, whether you like it or not, relates poverty to crime in Venezuela.

            As to UCT, I think you miss how far its effects would go. UCT affects the lives of people from before they are born, starting with nutrition and stress reduction in the household, therefore decreasing likelihood of broken homes, all the way to the way society would frown rather than turn a blind eye to crime.

            Again, I’ve never said UCT is a silver bullet, nor that things get fixed without doing other things. But it most certainly is something that *affects* almost every single aspect of a nation’s life, and without it would make fixing almost any aspect of Venezuela’s problems almost impossible.


            • Hey UCTs are fantastic,

              As poverty can influence crime, by restraining the lack of options. There are poor societies with low crime rates and rich societies with high crime rates. It is not a problem where you fix a variable and all the sudden everything looks star-sparkling-awesome.


              • Rodrigo Linares, your first argument is one of correlation. I know there are poor societies with low crime rates and rich ones with high crime rates. Again, correlation or lack of correlation do not prove causation nor lack of it. You sidestepped my argument regarding education affecting crime and therefore UCT would indirectly affect it. You also sidestepped my argument that in a nation where a presidential figure insisted on officially turning a blind eye to crimes committed by the poor the relation between poverty and crime is by definition.

                Your second argument is a straw man. I specifically stated that UCT would not fix this on its own. I specifically acknowledged other things needed to be done. You sidestepped my statement regarding the difficulty of other solutions without including UCT.


              • hey! again, I said UCTs are a good thing.

                I agree that correlation doesn’t mean causation. True also. More detailed look should be taken on societies that are rich, yet violent, or poor, yet peaceful to actually draw conclusions.

                I also agree the UCT would have a beneficial effect towards crime. Minor and here we may disagree but you haven’t provided a single argument to convince me.

                You made a very bold statement saying “My point is that without distributing cash, you hardly have a chance of fixing this.”. I disagree with that since we have not been this violent in the past and we didn’t have means of direct cash distribution and so can be seen in many other societies. You imply in your comment that a fundamental ingredient of the solution are UCT and that any solution without it is deemed to fail. Well, I disagree.


              • Rodrigo Linares, claiming that other solutions without UCT will fail is based mainly on the petrostate model being the root of most of the nation’s weeds. Given that UCT kills that root, given that there is no other root killer proposal, and given that without killing the root the weeds will continue to grow, it follows that without UCT the weeds will continue to grow…

                As to the minor effect it may have on crime, right off the bat 40% (?) of the disappearing oil money would stop disappearing and reaching people’s hands. In the hands of the few who currently control that money, it is the cause of much of the violence we see both through arming civilians for drug, political, or even personal business. Getting it out of those people’s hands will do more to prevent their use of it for evil than almost any other approach to fighting against that fact.

                You see, people get so blinded by the premise that UCT is about giving cash to people, that they forget to focus on its equally important feature of taking that cash away from those who are causing damage with it. It’s a lot of money; it’s a lot of damage. Much of the damage is translating to violence. UCT kills the root.


        • “There is very little the opposition can do, of course.” I disagree. Consider the assumption that the opposition would be able to reduce crime if it were in power. That is, the opposition would have saved some lives if it had won the election. Now ask yourself, was there anything that the opposition did not do to increase its chances of winning that election, thus enabling the saving of those lives?

          The only thing I can think of, short term had Capriles won, is a revamping of the Judiciary. That is not something the opposition can do unless it wins an election, be it Presidential or achieving a solid majority in the Assembly (preferably both, actually).

          There is obviously a lot the opposition could have done to win, since, well, they didn’t win!
          Could campaigning on a Law & Order Platform have made a difference vs. the “Chavez Lite” one they used have done the trick?

          “Would you consider that way of getting through to the mentality of the poor without distributing cash, and at the same time fighting injustice?”

          I think that is a solid idea, but “del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho”


          • Roberto N, do you think that if Capriles had thought that by promising UCT he would have won, that he would have gone with it? I don’t. It doesn’t have to be UCT, either. I don’t think the opposition has been willing to accept the reality of the way of thinking of the chavsimo supporters, and to adopt many of the solutions that take that way of thinking into account. Because there are many such options on the table that they have not taken up, I consider today’s violence partly the opposition’s responsibility for being having been and for continuing to be so unaccepting of the majority of the population’s thinking.


  15. A good post. Lopez gets it, but not too sure how many others in the opposition do.

    However, in my humble opinion that position was valid 12 months ago, but now the opposition has so little free space to operate it’s almost irrelevant. Besides which, I don’t know of any dictatorship brought down due to insecurity – does anyone?


    • But we keep shifting our threshold down, only too late.
      time T: how can we ever fight back at this point?? everything is stacked against us, there’s no recourse!
      between time T+6 months and time T + 1 year: Well, we can’t fight now! we don’t have all those perks we had back in time T!

      When Chavez won 1998, we couldn’t do anything against his unconstitutional Constituent Assembly with the CSJ and Congress because he had a mandate.

      After 2000, we couldn’t do anything against the enabling Law, Land Reform and Fishing Law with little less than half the governorships and mayors because we didn’t have a majority in parliament.

      Then because we had no one in PDVSA or the military.
      Then because we had too little international support.
      Then because we lost the Electoral Chamber of TSJ and the impartial CNE
      Then because we had no one in Parliament and too few governors.
      Then it was because we lost RCTV
      Then because we lost the radio
      Then we finally had people in parliament, but they weren’t a majority
      Then because Globovisión was sold.
      Now because BCV bent over


  16. The Chavista government can never crack down. They are scared of the malandros, gangs, ‘militia’s. Furthermore, even the most apolitical of those groups can be called upon to support the regime and intimidate opposition groups. They get perks out of it, but they enjoy it too. In many ways they are a “core” constituency of this increasinly criminal regime. Why do you think nothing is ever done?

    Recall the story relayed on here about a man shooting someone in the head over a traffic argument right in front of a police officer, and then nonchalantly showing the officer his Tuparamos identification card. The police officer did nothing, and the man just rode away.


  17. what ever happened to nagel’s whole ‘be where the puck is going to be’ strategy for the opposition, where it would issue concrete proposals? if for the government to say that crime is a problem for ‘society’ is an admission that it has ‘no clue what to do’, then for the opposition to say that crime isn’t its responsibility because it has no power is as well. both are cop-outs.


  18. I am surprised that so many fail to understand that the Gov. will do nothing because they actually profit from this happening. It is a civil war, as Bruni said above, and the government is on their side. With this casualty they get two escuálidos menos right away, and a whole lot more that will pack up and leave because this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Incidentally, I might be in that lot.

    Which is, of course, the strategy that worked so well for Cuba: let all the opposing minds live… in Miami.


    • I bet more chavistas die everyday than opposition people leave, so as a strategy for votes it doesn’t add up.


      • I disagree.
        This looks like a macabre topic but even so: most people dying are poor but that does not mean most people murdered are Chavistas.
        Take Libertador in Carabobo. 60% voted for Maduro out of 77.67% possible voters who actually voted. We are definitely losing more than 20000 citizens to emigration yearly.

        We had about 50000 voters abroad in 2006. In 2012 we had over 100000. That is “only” 50000 in six years but my educated guess is that for every Venezuelan who registers to vote abroad, three others are not doing so, for whatever reasons.


  19. What the opposition could do is call attention to the solutions to this problem. Would it be possible, for example, for opposition mayors to organize a “fact finding” conference in a jurisdiction that has successfully tackled this problem, like Bogota or Mexico City, have some high level meetings, put out a joint proposal, point out that something can be done and the regime is obviously ignoring effective solutions, and travel around the country advertising it. Turn it into a campaign.

    There are two reasons why things are getting worse: incompetence and complicity within the officialista regime. Everyone knows this and surely it can be turned into an effective rallying point.


  20. I lived in South Africa for several years. After the end of Apartheid, the crime problem was on a par with what is now here in Venezuela. Car hijacking was everywhere! Electric gates became a standard necessity! So here are some of the things that happened: (1) Auto alarms were equipped so that headlights flashed on and off while the car was is motion… police shoot to kill any occupants of a car with flashing headlights. (2) Private security companies formed with fleets of cars and security personnel who responded instantly to requests by customers, (I remember having a flat tire one night, we were all terrified, but an armed security car arrived within 10 minutes and fixed the tire). (3) Certain neighborhoods were labeled as “secure,” and the other neighborhoods were avoided. These measures only protected the white middle-class and above, but it illustrated how the government was inept and how private solutions were superior.

    The reason I am mentioning this is because the government was not being responsive! The private companies were solving the problem! People didn’t complain about the slow, unreliable police, entrepreneurs took action and made money! The government was exposed!


    • From Wikipedia:

      “Around 50 people are murdered in South Africa each day. The murder rate has increased by an order of magnitude in South Africa during the last 40 years, though it has fallen from 66.9 per 100,000 people in 1994–95 to 37.3 in 2008–09. From 2003–2009, crime decreased significantly according to official police data. Between 1994 and 2009, the murder rate reduced by 50% to 34 murders per 100,000 people. The annual crime statistics released in 2011 show a continuing downward trend, except for rape, which went up by 2.1%. Business Against Crime attributed the reduction to improvements in the criminal justice system and policing.”

      Nothing in there about changing the culture…


        • No, I’m being snarky. Actually, it’s a great achievement. In a little more than ten years they halved the murder rates, and the culture stayed just the same…


          • The culture stayed just the same? Now that is humorous.Halving the murder rate is a big change.At some point the people had to accept or be willing to live under stricter conditions.

            The drug and oil money dealings in Venezuela are some of the reasons for encouraging this lack of willingness to change.


              • There are countries with more poverty than ours and they dont have our crime rate , its not just poverty , its the culture that has evolved from our peculiar experience of poverty and which has its roots in factors that precede our current crime rate explosion . Also there is the important factor that the institutions that fought and punished crime in the past , facing the onslaught represented by the overflow of crime bred by an increased marginal population was at the same time being dismantled from within , by the regime. Both things together have created the situation that now afflicts us.


      • Changing culture is a tall task! I once took a graduate course in the philosophy of John Dewey. Also from Wikipedia:

        John Dewey (/ˈduːi/; FAA October 20, 1859 – June 1, 1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey is one of the primary figures associated with philosophy of pragmatism and is considered one of the founders of functional psychology. A well-known public intellectual, he was also a major voice of progressive education and liberalism.[2][3] Although Dewey is known best for his publications concerning education, he also wrote about many other topics, including epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, art, logic, social theory, and ethics.
        Known for his advocacy of democracy, Dewey considered two fundamental elements—schools and civil society—as being major topics needing attention and reconstruction to encourage experimental intelligence and plurality. Dewey asserted that complete democracy was to be obtained not just by extending voting rights but also by ensuring that there exists a fully formed public opinion, accomplished by effective communication among citizens, experts, and politicians, with the latter being accountable for the policies they adopt.

        The conclusion that I got from the course was basically that it is much harder to change a society by changing adults. It was more economic and more effective to change the educational system and design the next generation. However, Chavismo is way ahead in that game!


        • The culture that defines most peoples attitudes and behaviour is to be found in the homes and inmmediate surroundings of the growing child , in the life they lead, in the customs followed in such surroundings , in their interaction with their parents or adult relatives or with their siblings and peer groups , in the vernacular social enviroment which envelops its life . The school influence is secondary to these other influences . You can have impersonal social institutions that further model peoples behaviour but mostly through pressures that counteract or channel , reinforce or inhibit a childs spontaneous already rooted character traits.
          Problem with social institutions be they guvernamental or other is that they are composed of people who in turn must have internalized an organizational or tribal culture that determines how such institutions function , how competently they work .
          In Latin America we are strong belivers in systems that work form the top downward , if you have good leaders or well designed organizations then every thing is going to be OK . We actually believe that laws and constitutions by themselves are going to magically change how things operate in practice !! If Public Policies are great then their practical applications are going to make things OK .
          What history and observation and experience teaches us is that what comes from the bottom can sabotage or ruin all the good thats supposed to come from the top . It take years to form a group of people steeped in an institutional organizational culture of system of habits that makes them competent at making the institution do its work .
          Contrarywise sometimes the bottom is healthy and well run and motivated and makes up for the deficiencies at the top . (in the german army a novice liutanant is always given a good master sargent to help him out)
          You are as good as the material and tools you have to work with , if michaelangelo was asked to sculpture the pieta using turds of cow dung rather than marble maybe the result would have been different .
          Carlos Rangel in his famous book del buen salvaje al buen revolucionario made the point how in latin america people really took to the illusion that if the top was ok then everything else would be OK while in the US they worried of making the Top design not be too ambitious to make sure it would work with what was alrready there , warts and all. What mattered was that a good idea ( not necessarily the best idea) worked even if not perfectly but enough so taht people would be content with it.


          • First of all, some of that culture might be from Catholic missionary influence, that God is on top and flows down through the Church hierarchy downward. What do you think?

            Second, there is a theory that culture flows from “higher” cultures into “lower” cultures as heat flows from things that are warm into things that are cold. In other words, there is a “utility” value exchange between cultures.

            Lastly, it has been shown, especially in twin studies, that children commonly “rebel” from their parents’ world views. There was an interesting study published in Scientific American about 10 years ago, where twins that were separated and raised in separate households demonstrated tendencies to be “different” from their host parents!

            I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I think that cultural determinism is not that rigid.


            • Gordo lets see if I can explain : Change doenst just happen because some enlightened people on top issue decrees or adopt some very rational policies , because implementation can be curved by the absence of an organization of people with an institutional culture ( system of beliefs and habits and skills) that allows such decrees or policies to be actually implemented or if the ‘culture’ of the people to whom those decrees apply is incompatible with that which inspire such decrees and laws. Example . When German Chiefs were originally christianized they were accostumed to having several wives, so once they grew tired of their old wives they would wed a younger wife and send the old wife to live in the basement . The priests told them that Christianty , didnt allow that , that they could only have one wife at a time and remarry only if they became widowers . the chiefs didnt like that so they instituted something called the ´teutonic divorce’ the old wife would be murdered in her kitchen thereby allowing the chief to marry a younger wife more to his liking . You see here how the old germanic culture circunvented the rules of their new christian culture because deep down inside those newly christianized chiefs didnt get it . No lasting change can be effected unles you change the culture or create a new culture at least at some level of society . Crime can be held in check through instintutional controls , but for those controls to work the way in which the police and the judiciary and the prison systems works and the culture of the people that run those institutions has to change . If marginal culture is at the root of crime the problem of crime may be controlled institutionally but the way of uprooting the causes of crime is changing marginal culture so that it doenst breed the criminal class that it breeds now. These topics are devilish hard to handle , so forgive me if the above doenst do it .


    • There are arguments that go deeper into public/private superiority in security.

      There’s the dilemma of security spending in Venezuela: Unfortunately I have no numbers. But the argument says that public spending in security is insufficient (uncontroversial), yet if you look at public+private spending in security, the number it’s high, since I have no numbers let’s settle it at just higher (reasonable). If all money paid in watchmen, private patrols, and other non-VIP services went into public security, security would improve as a result of economies of scale (less offices/bosses/administration overall) and more people with authority to arrest, shoot to kill, investigate, etc. However, we don’t want to pay that money through taxes for fear of it just going into real state in Miami, offshore banks, yachts and the like.

      There’s also the danger of a security gap, ever present with the trend of gated communities (not as big as in Elyseum though). Even if all middle class and above people stay safe inside gated citadels where they can live/work/shop. There will be thousands of people exposed to violence and crime, so instead of crime reduction it could be merely crime relocation. At the same time, if you leave a void, it will be filled, and the void outside the gated communities/citadels could grow from current gang sizes (5-20 people) to Mara Salvatrucha/Zetas/AUC sizes and those groups will pose a larger threat to gated community residents than small gangs ever could be.


        • Public/private collaboration is seldom negative. But I was merely putting some more perspective on the public/private spending in Venezuela and possible outcomes of “privatizing” security.

          My main proposal for crime reduction, would be drastically shifting money from military weaponry/perks/personnel to: law enforcement equipment, expanding police forces (national, regional, local) while raising their salaries, provide work stability for temp workers in the judicial system’s lower echelons (peace judges, court judges, attorney generals and public defenders) through public examination (concursos de oposición).

          Peace judges need a strong boost to help deal with all the violence that isn’t necessarily criminal. Like those centered on small claims, loud music, property lines, home owner association fees, tree maintenance, pets, etc.

          Other proposals related to crime reduction: decentralizing the prison system (regional and local prisons), classifying inmates by violence levels (low, medium, high security), expand alternative sentences (community work, home arrest, fines), decriminalize victim-less crimes (drug use, for example) to better focus the efforts.

          Some proposals to stop people from turning into criminals out of need: update the High School syllabus turning the Work Education (Educación para el Trabajo) subject (by 2000’s 4 years of learning Palmer calligraphy, technical drawing by pencil, and other disciplines outdated since the 70’s) into something more useful. Specifically something like INCES for everybody. So people leave high school with a Trade like plumbing, repairing air conditioners, repairing electronics, repairing computers, baking, cooking, repairing shoes and bags, etc. That way people have a way to support themselves honestly even if they can’t find a job, if they become a stay-at-home-parent or while going to college. Some people are quitting high school because they see no value in it (since they don’t aspire to go to college), this would solve that as well.


  21. If there is something that has been exacerbated, and in which the Revolution has capitalized greatly during the last 15 years, is in the classist discourse. We have been bombarded with the abstract idea of the superficial, exploiter, parasitic bourgeoisie; this notion has become an useful tool to justify state action against enemies. Also, the idea has been used, not only to dismantle meritocracy, or to polarized de Venezuelan society between those who have a lot, and does who do not have anything; but in a more reductionist level, between those who have something, “we need”, (the bourgeoisie) and “us”. Following on this logic anyone could be a bourgeois.
    The bourgeoisie, is not an specific entity, they might be people who are middle class, or even poor, but still, for the official discourse, they might have a dissociated bourgeoisie mind, which tacitly justifies dehumanization and action proportional to that dehumanization. The government has spent time and resources glamorizing the image of a strong man that takes justice in his hands, the same that “expropriates”, and imposes its will based on and flexible idea of justice. This flexibility of justice and moral conduct, has been deliberately officialized in order to rationalized the state’s violation of the rule of law. It is my opinion, that the brutal increment of violence in Venezuela, it is deeply related to this idiosyncratic notion of justice and its influence in the conflict solving strategies of the Venezuelan people.


      • Thanks Gordo; a solution? I don’t know, but I think it would be very helpful to articulate an aggressive a campaign designed to emphasize respect of the rule of law, and private property. Now, do we see in the clear conflict of interest between what the government needs to do in order to keep ideological popularity and population control, and what it should do in order to deter violent crimes from occurring?


        • Deterrence is one thing, and popularizing respect for the law is different. Could you please clarify what you mean?


            • I’d say any crime. Not necessarily the Giuliani approach, or maybe yes. But the whole motorizado anarchy has to stop. No riding on sidewalks, no driving in opposite direction, no 4 people in a bike shenanigans, etc.

              It doesn’t have to be jail time right away. If they were just trying to cut corners to get somewhere fast, police officers can simply make a point by having them parked for two hours at the checkpoint. Otherwise, a fine. Too many fines, or unpaid fines, or putting people at risk means no license. Driving with a suspended license could bring jail time or community service or something.

              One of the best motivators break laws is the feeling of lawlessness.


      • Let me be clear, It should not necessarily, but in the Venezuela we have today, the respect of the rule of law, and respect of private property, will be read by the chavista dogmatic hard left, as a neoliberal turn. This is unfair but, I am afraid we are being governed by this nonsense..


  22. Just a quick search through Aporrea confirms the idea that chavista intellectuals are debating the issue of crime rate seriously, without politicizing the issue. Para muestra un botón

    “ahora, si revisamos lo que viene pasando con la política exterior y ahora interior de USA, encontramos que no diferencia su conducta con la utilizada por el malandro criminal del barrio cuando considera que su oponente, en la consecución del objetivo de lucrarse malamente, se presenta en la figura de una madre, hijo – hija o cualquier indefenso ciudadano, pues, simplemente, sin piedad lo acorrala, aterroriza y aniquila. Es la misma conducta que los productores de pesadillas nos quieren esconder.”

    You can read the entirety of the article in all its well thought out, researched, balanced and non-partisan glory, here


    • If there is some serious discourse, that could be very useful. Recall, the true believers can break the authoritarian regime from within. The Protestant Reformation is an example. Perhaps not all Chavismo are thugs. So, what then? How do we find them?


  23. I’ve always wondered why this blog is written in English. I assume that only a miniscule minority in Venezuela can understand English. But this is very well written and ideas are excellently articulated, why not make it accessible to a much broader population for the sake of winning more hearts and minds in the battle against chavismo?


  24. We can all pretend otherwise, but the solution is the extremely prejudiced extermination of all chavistas. Only then, there is hope of rebuilding the country. The oppo leaders, more than being so, have become docile collaborators. You may think I am being radical, but a few years from now you will nod at my remarks. No country can prosper with the “savage discourse.” Prepare for 2014, the worst year in Venezuela’s post-Gomez era.


  25. Poverty is not complete directly with crime as we can see all around the world. And yet, look at this:
    The main culprits of the homicides are Adolfo Rico Agreda, 26, and Eva Armas Mejías, 39.

    Adolfo Rico Agreda, Cédula 18562996 votes at the UNIDAD EDUCATIVA MUNICIPAL RURAL GAÑANGO. Maduro got 72.22% in that centre, which is by far the most Chavista in that parish, Borburata, where Maduro got 63.72% (and that is more than the average for Puerto Cabello municipality).

    Eva Armas Mejías,cédula 11744607, used to vote in GRUPO ESCOLAR CARLOS FELIPE ALVIZU, where Maduro got now 66%, but she moved to another school where Maduro actually got 76.43% and that within the parroquia Democracia, where Maduro got 70.04% (of the same municipio)


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