I’d always figured the claims you hear about Venezuela being more violent than Iraq or Afghanistan were just a bit of criollo hyperbole. You know, nothing to be taken literally. Until yesterday’s staggering revelation in El Nacional sent me off on a bit of a Google search that revealed that no, actually, it’s literally true. By wide margins.
There were 2,412 Civilian casualties due to the war in Afghanistan last year. In Iraq, 4,644. Venezuela had 19,133 violent deaths in 2009.
At 29 and 30 million, both those countries have populations that are slightly larger than Venezuela’s 28 million. In effect, that means that Civilians in Venezuela were some four times likelier to die due to violence than those in Iraq. And eight times more likely than in Afghanistan. And all that without any suicide bombings.
It really is staggering.
And here we get back to something that’s been bothering me about the current controversy on violence in Venezuela.
The episode that set all this off, Telesur chief Andrés Izarra’s psychotic giggling fit on CNN when presented with statistics on violence in Venezuela, has generated considerably more outrage than analysis.
But it’s worth going back to the nitty-gritty of the debate that cracked Izarra up so much. The specific point Izarra’s counterpart, Roberto Briceño Leon, was making was not just about violence, but more specifically about the fact that violence has risen while poverty rates fall.
And this, it seems to me, is the crux of the issue.
Because the standard unthinking leftwing response to concerns about crime is to blame it on "structural factors", fundamentally poverty. Crime, in this view, is a surface manifestation of other types of deprivation. As you provide children with "schools, food, medical care, games, fun" crime rates fall away on their own. But the startling fact about Venezuela in the last ten years is that even as a flood of petrodollars have caused access to schools, food, medical care and income to improve for poor people, urban violence has soared to multiple times their levels in actual, no-kidding war zones.
That’s the fact Izarra was presented with, that’s the reality that sends the revolutionary hive-mind sputtering into near psychotic paralysis, which then manifests itself incongruously through defensive giggles.
The whole chavista storyline about a joyful refounding of the nation along radically pro-poor lines, about a flourishing sense of optimism and renewal in poor communities given radical access to broad new possibilities denied to them under the ancien regime, the entire VIO supported Potemkin revolution crumbles when you grasp that these gloriously liberated folks are now 8 times as likely to murder each other as the friggin’ Taliban is to murder Afghans.
And all that without any suicide bombings…eso es lo cojonudo…Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.