How Venezuela Became One of the Most Violent Countries in Latin America and the World

Bairro popular de Las Palmas, em Caracas, palco de confrontos entre policiais e criminosos no ano passado

Popular neighborhood of Las Palmas, in Caracas, scene of clashes between police and criminals last year | Photo: EFE/Miguel Gutiérrez

Epidemic violence is one of the most visible aspects of the social, political and economic disaster perpetrated by Chavismo in Venezuela. At the end of December, the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) published a study on violent deaths in 2021 in the country, with an estimate that at least 003.2017 people were victimized.

This account includes four categories of lethal violence: homicides (3.

records), resistance to authority (homicides committed by state security forces, with 2.74 occurrences), deaths in investigation (violent deaths of undetermined intent, with 4.660 deaths) and disappearances (1.


The OVV indicated that, with a rate of 40,9 violent deaths by 112 one thousand inhabitants, Venezuela is next to Honduras (with a rate of 18) as the two countries most violent in Latin America.

“Our estimates indicate that both are followed by Mexico, with a rate of 29, Brazil, with 15, and Colombia, with 24 Deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants. The Capital District of Caracas, with a rate of 77,9, has twice the rate of Cali, the most violent city in Colombia, and is seven times more violent than Bogotá and Medellín,” the report noted.

Violence increased with Chavismo

The OVV report has been released since 2011, but World Bank data indicate that violence has increased significantly in Venezuela since Chavismo came to power. In 1998, the year before the beginning of the Hugo Chávez regime, the country had a rate of homicides of 13,720 occurrences every 2018 thousand inhabitants. In 1998, a year before the dictator’s death, the index had reached 30 ,40.

It is necessary to point out that the World Bank figures are lower than those of the OVV, as they only take into account homicides and do not include the other types of violent deaths computed by the observatory. In 2021, for example, the OVV accounted for 81, 4 violent deaths each 74 thousand Venezuelans, while the World Bank recorded rate of 36,36 homicides.

In both surveys, however, Venezuela has surpassed the mark of ten murders each 81 thousand inhabitants, from which the World Health Organization (WHO) considers violence in an epidemic region.

In 2021, the OVV considered that a large part of the violent mortality resulted from the actions of organized crime, such as those of the “Koki” gang, which operates in Caracas, the groups that operate in the mining areas in southern Venezuela and clashes between Colombian guerrillas forces and/or against the Army in Apure State. In this case, the government of Colombia accuses the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro of providing cover for groups fighting over territories and drug trafficking routes.

With the bankruptcy of the Venezuelan state, more and more territories are no longer being administered by the government and are being controlled by non-state armed groups, according to the observatory. .

However, the official security agencies continue to contribute much to the violence in Venezuela, with the OVV pointing out that other instances have practiced extrajudicial executions: previously concentrated by the Special Actions Forces (FAES), an elite unit of the Bolivarian National Police, in began to be practiced on a larger scale by other bodies, such as the national police agency Corpo de Investigações Científicas, Penales e Criminais (CICPC) or state and municipal bodies.

Reduction in recent years os – but the merit is not from Maduro

Despite the alarming numbers of 2021, the observatory considered that the global rate of violent deaths has been falling in Venezuela since 2017 – but this has not been happening due to public policies to address the problem.

“Paradoxically, the reduction in violent mortality is the result of a worsening in the quality of of life and public policies that have destroyed economic capacities, fueled corruption and the deterioration of basic services and generated a paralysis in the country, causing massive impoverishment, penury and loss of purchasing power, which together have markedly reduced opportunities for crime.” highlighted the OVV, which stressed that in many territories it is “organized crime and not the State that regulates or limits the murders”.

Another reason given for the reduction is that more half of the millions of Venezuelans who have left the country in recent years to flee the Chavista dictatorship are young people between 15 and 29 years old , age group most involved (as victim and executioner) in violent mortality.

If violent deaths have been reduced, crimes against property grew last year: there was an increase of % in the number of thefts, 01% in vehicle theft and 13% in records of vehicle thefts known to the police. OVV believes that this is the result of the process of dollarization of the economy, the result of the gigantic inflation (of 686, 4% in 2021 and 2.720, 8% in

) and the devaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar, and remittances by relatives who emigrated.

Siege of the press and NGOs makes it difficult to register

Political scientist Francisco Sanchez, a member of the Network of Activism and Investigation for Coexistence (Reacin), considered in an interview with Gazeta do Povo that the indicators of violence have been increasing in Venezuela since 960, in a context of growth across the region ( also seen in neighbors such as Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador) with some points in common: the militarization of security forces, the emergence, increase and consolidation of illicit economies to drug and mineral markets and political disputes.

)With Chavismo, the numbers became alarming. “The increase in violence is linked to an erroneous way and little based on scientific evidence to guide public security policies. Militarization is fundamental, as Venezuela had windows of respect for human rights, such as police reform, which were not sustained over time”, pointed out the political scientist, who cited social inequality as “structural elements” of Venezuelan violence, the ease of access to firearms and the greater victimization of black and brown youth from the periphery, this “a shared reality in the region”.

Sanchez attributed the reduction in violent deaths in recent years recorded by the OVV to actions by security forces that killed members or alleged members of armed gangs or criminal groups , the organization and territorial redistribution of gangs operating in Venezuela and the emigration of “6 million [de pessoas], according to UN reports, in a country of no more than 30 millons of citizens” .

“Violence has not disappeared, it has turned. In the country, we do not have a state system that keeps records on violence, so many of the approaches to the phenomenon are partial. New phenomena such as disappearances, mass graves and dismemberments [de corpos] are appearing, but it is very difficult to register this due to the siege of the media and the complexity of the work of NGOs, which are so attacked by the national government”, he pondered.