Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Security Could Be Weakness for Venezuela Opposition

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Security Could Be Weakness for Venezuela Opposition

Article excerpt

Crime prevention is a hot-button issue in Venezuela, where nearly three times as many deaths as in Iraq occurred in 2009.

- A version of this post ran on the author's site, The views expressed are the author's own.

Citizen security is sure to be a key issue in the upcoming October presidential elections in Venezuela, but while the opposition will likely challenge President Hugo Chavez's crime policies, their candidate's record isn't much better.

Venezuela's Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD) held their first- ever presidential primary Sunday, with Henrique Capriles Radonski beating his four opponents in a landslide, taking 62 percent of the vote. Capriles, governor of Miranda state, is now gearing up for an eight month assault on Chavez in the lead up to the Oct. 7 elections. One of the hot-button issues over which the two are likely to square off is crime prevention. Venezuela saw a record number of homicides in 2011, and the level of kidnappings (in Spanish) and robberies has surged in recent years.

Like other leading figures in the MUD, Capriles has repeatedly criticized Chavez for the state of crime in Venezuela. Rather than endorsing a "hardline" solution to insecurity in the country, however, he has proposed more social remedies. He has expressed an interest in making Venezuela's notoriously crowded prisons more humane (in Spanish), saying "the most important human rights violations occur in the prisons run by the government." Education is the hallmark policy (in Spanish) of his campaign, and he has referred to it as "the long-term solution to our crime phenomenon."

But while Capriles has gained significant praise for his work on education as governor of Miranda, his security achievements in the state have been lacking. According to Venezuela's Corps of Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigations' (CICPC) homicide figures for 2011 (in Spanish), Miranda has not been spared the country's rapidly rising homicide rate. While the number of murders is less than Caracas (which saw 3,488), the 2,138 homicides that took place in Miranda last year make it one of the most violent states in Venezuela.

So far, 2012 has not been an exception. Last week Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami released the official homicide figures for the past month (in Spanish), which suggest Miranda saw more murders than any other state in the country in January. The 231 homicides in the state last month represent a 16 percent increase from the tally of murders in January 2011. …

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