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,
insightcrime.org. 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. …