Where the streets are paved red


Last year, Caracas was the most dangerous capital city in the world. It was also the fourth most dangerous city in the world. This according to Mexican NGO Seguridad, Justicia y Paz.

You can download their presentation here.

Hecho en Socialismo.

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  1. Wao.
    Valencia (without Naguanagua, which is now a part of Valencia) had “only” 815 murders.
    Libertador in Carabobo had 208 murders for 117 murders per 100 thousand people last year. Los Guayos had 130 murders.
    What you don’t get about those figures is the fact that murder in Venezuela is much more widespread. I have the rates for all of Carabobo and I know the situation is grim also around Barquisimeto, even in El Tocuyo now. I used to go to El Tocuyo as a child. It was poor, but not miserable. Now it is miserable and very dangerous.

  2. im not glad im in venezuela but im glad i am in maracaibo.
    Jesus H Christ everytime i think of caracas being in that position it gives me the creeps.
    How is that even possible? organized crime? mafia? or just bad ass choros in the barrios shooting people for stupid shit like looking at my girlfriend or that?
    Im a conspiracy theorist of sorts and i would like to believe some other force is supporting this.Really.

    • There must be organized mafias but I believe the problem is also that violence has reached levels where criminals don’t feel any restrain, moral or practical, there are no borders, there is not right or wrong, there is no law, they just can do whatever they like.

      A couple of stories: a friend of a friend was in the car stuck in traffic and as usual a guy came to her window with a gun, she rushed to gather anything of value, lowered the window just so and handed everything as fast as she could. The guy looked at her with disgust, shot her in the leg and said: “esto es para que la proxima vez no te dejes robar tan papita” (something along the lines of this is so next time you are not such a pushover). It is violence for the sake of violence.

      Another friend was in his house near the beach and they came to rob them. The dog went berserk, one of the robbers pointed the gun at my friend’s neck and said make him shut up because it is really easy for me to leave you paralyzed. They know nothing is going to happen to them, no one is going to even investigate. They are almighty in Venezuela.

  3. This is also one of the things that worries me when Chavez is gone.
    All those armed people defending their god.
    Not only that but the incredibly hard time the next president will have when dealing with this problem in particular,among the salad of problems chavez will leave.
    Why not send the National Guard or the frigging army to the streets,to the barrios to the city? I’m guessing if a choro gives 100 bolos or less to a guard to look the other way while they do some business he will gladly accept.
    It’s been a looooooooong time since i felt safe around my own country’s military.

  4. I saw this article today and what disturbed me was not only the fact that two Honduran cities made no. 3 and no. 6 but that out of the top 10 cities 9 were in Latin America. It appears to be a continent-wide phenomenon that has gripped the region since the end of the Cold War. Criminals can run around free to do what they please because, for the most part, the state has lost its monopoly on the use of violence. There is literally no consequence for doing whatever you please so in this Hobbesian world that is Latin America, the darkest, creepiest recesses of the human mind have been given free reign. It amazes me that criminals that would merely rob you at gunpoint or beat you up in other countries get really, really creative with their delinquent activities to the point of really enjoying what they do. Sending the military onto the streets is useless, because they’re not really trained to patrol against crime. It would be too easy to blame drug trafficking, although a large portion of the murders in LA are directly tied to the drug trade, because this does not explain everyday crime like holdups, kidnappings, etc, crimes that are mostly carried out by opportunistic sociopaths ready to make a quick buck.

  5. Not to miss the little fact that violence among drug cartels and mafias is usually performed AMONG drug cartels and mafias. Not that relatives of people involved in cartels and mafias are not targeted. Not that the kingpins will be squeamish at practicing terrorism against somebody that irks them. But the kingpins need local support and local respect. That’s what allows populations in such zones to actually lead lives when there is not a war between cartels themselves, and against the government. In fact, some organized crime controlled areas are surprisingly peaceful.

    Violence in Caracas is much more indiscriminate. Here, there is no restraint at all and criminals are just not criminals, they are psychopaths of the worst sort. Now, how do we lead lives in Caracas? How, in the barrios?

    You see it. A party shot up every weekend just because… Four or five youths at a time going to cemetery on Monday. You have to wait on the highway because they are doing a “popular funeral” complete with armed malandros. Then, more restrained, a caravan for a taxi or bus driver shot at the job. And the thought becomes a surety: Venezuelan society is breaking up, a structural failure, a total collapse and a totaled country.

    • This is true, a lot of areas where organized crime takes hold are relatively peaceful because the narcos make sure that their local base of support is happy and free of trouble. However, I do believe that there is a ripple effect throughout society and when drug lords begin to murder other drug operatives indiscriminately, often using people from poorer neighborhoods to carry out some of these crimes, the lesson makes its way throughout society. As a result, murder has become the preferred conflict resolution mechanism among people who on the outside appear to be normal, well-adjusted members of society. It’s sort of like the broken windows theory: Once a single thing goes south in a neighborhood, the rest follows. I’d like to see some theories as to why Latin America has become such a perfect breeding ground for murderers, even ahead of other impoverished areas in the Middle East and Asia.

    • Jeepers are you just making this up? Mexico’s drug war peaceful to those who aren’t in drug cartels?!?!?!?!?!


      “It was an ominous punctuation mark on the wave of terror that has turned this cotton farming town near Texas into a frightened outpost of the drug war. Nearly half of its 9,000 residents have fled, local officials say, leaving block after block of scorched homes and businesses and, now, not one regular police officer.

      Far from big, infamous cities like Ciudad Juárez, one of the most violent places in the Americas, the war with organized crime can batter small towns just as hard, if with less notice. ”


      “Guadalupe has plenty of them to investigate. There are as many abandoned homes and businesses — several of them gutted — as occupied ones. One recent morning, four homes smoldered from an attack and two people had been shot dead with high-powered weapons, the bullets leaving several gaping holes in cinder-block walls.

      Few people here leave their homes after 5 p.m., and see soldiers and police officers only briefly after a major crime or when they are guarding the monthly delivery of government pension checks for retirees.

      “We lock ourselves in most of the time,” said Eduardo Contreras, 26, as he watched residents douse and pick through the embers of their smoldering homes. ”

      Sounds like there are places in Mexico where even Venezuelans wouldn’t want to be. Frankly, this whole discussion of which is worse, Mexico or Venezuela, strikes me as unseemingly. It is like a person with lung cancer and a person with liver cancer argueing about who has the worst cancer.

    • Ow,

      The situation in Mexico is a tragedy, it is a national and actually international disaster. Still, what one wants to point out above all is that if that is catching gringos’ attention and the attention of so many people in Europe and elsewhere, they should at the very least pay as much attention to Venezuela, where the possibility that a person gets murdered is several times that of the big tragedy Mexico is in.
      It does not take away the tragedy there is with the people you buy your burritos from. It reminds you in the so-called “socialist” revolution that is much farther away from you there is another major tragedy as well.

    • Ow: “That’s what allows populations in such zones to actually lead lives when there is not a war between cartels themselves, and against the government.“. I hope that clarifies my position. Criminals are still criminals and oppressors are still oppressors. A drug war can certainly occur, and there goes the “peace”, as it did in Ciudad Juarez and Sinaloa. A war between dictators and/or fanatics occurs, and there goes “peace”.

      As far as I am concerned, more than any nation, the U.S.A. should feel guilty to the bones of everything that goes under the guise of drug war and enforcement in and outside the U.S.A. . They created the monster by unprincipled lawmaking and regulation based on unreal expectations, both of humans and of law enforcement/prisons. The rest of the world is guilty of following suit. I don’t know if it strikes you as a cheapening both law and human life that a longer sentence can be got for possessing a set amount of a substance than for ending the life of a human being willingly. With the offender’s house and car confiscated too.

      El Jefe: Of Course. I am not saying that control by organized crime is heaven, far from it. Only that in Venezuela it’s much worse and it gets hellish. Even the warped and raw “justice” and “order” afforded by organized crime is absent. In Venezuela, furthermore, murder has become a quite preferred method for conflict resolution. How much? I’m not particularly keen to know.

  6. Metodex,

    “This is also one of the things that worries me when Chavez is gone.”

    You should be more worried about Chavez continuing because there is more than likely a greater chance for change, when Chavez is gone.

  7. You have to see City of God

    It started earlier in Brazil, but in Venezuela it has become much worse than it ever was in Brazil and the disease has reached much more than just a couple of cities.

    There are some clear patterns I see in the whole disease.
    Cocaine is indeed a part of it. We always thought: “it’s only a transport country”. Still: there is no way one can remain clean just as “transport”. And cocaine generates much more than problems than what many think.

    Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala are failed nations with the highest population growth in Spanish America. Only Bolivia and Paraguay have higher birth rates than Venezuela, but those countries do not have so many people in just some cities.

  8. In Canada, where handguns are banned, and long arms very hard to get except in rural areas, people are safe. In Toronto, there are 1.26 murder per 100,000 people, roughly 1% of the Caracas rate. Typically, the rate in nearby US cities, without gun control, is 10 times our homicide rate, per capita.

    Nationally, there were 610 murders in 2009, the last year I have data for. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/101026/dq101026a-eng.htm

    The US, with ten times Canada’s population, nationally has thirty times the murders.

    To me, closing one’s eyes to gun control as a solution, while talking about lead in gasoline, is basically to drink deeply from the ideological mindset of the imperio, where gun toting is a human right. A national strategy of gun control in Venezuela would, without any doubt whatsoever, take a big bite out of the disiaster which present policy has caused.

    • Although I support gun control, there’s a lot of Latin American factors that essentially negate most gun control legislation. Mexico and Honduras (can’t speak for Venezuela as I am unfamiliar with their gun laws) have pretty strict registration laws that state that citizens can’t own military-caliber weapons, automatic weapons or extended magazines. However, this really doesn’t stop anyone from owning AK-47s, AR-15s and the like. I remember when they banned AKs in Honduras and offered $100 per rifle that was turned in they got maybe 50 weapons in the whole country in this way. Most guns in Central America aren’t registered and most assault rifles used in crimes have been acquired from military arsenals by bribing corrupt officers. We already have pretty strict legislation but, as with most other laws in Latin America, these end up being little more than a joke.

    • Jeffrey,

      Correlation is not causation.We need to have a much deeper look at the causes of crime.Israel has a lower murder rate than the US, yet everyone is armed, and look at this video on Switzerland:

      Canada’s demographics are different from Venezuela’s.It is cold,huge and underpopulated.The political atmosphere is different and the laws are not enforced in the same way.There are so many variables and some of them are hard to put on the charts in a simple graph.

      This is a subject that needs a great deal of honesty,subtle understanding and out of the box thinking to solve.

    • Firepigette,

      Israel is not precisely an example:
      You cannot drive there more than a couple of kilometres without getting into a military control.

      Spain is not cold. Italy is not cold. Canada is not like that because “it’s cold”.
      Actually: the whole of Western Europe has a murder rate that is under 2%.
      Germany has under 800 murders per year and it has 82 million people.
      The Netherlands may not be warm, but it is one of the countries with the highest population densities.

      We can buy weapons here, in Germany, in France, in Canada, but we do not feel excited about buying weapons. I don’t know a single person who owns weapons. We do have more stringent controls and permits.

      We do not think there is a Heavenly Right that some Founding Fathers with some magic halo revealed us about swinging around one’s Uzi as a form of freedom.

      We also have something you hardly have in the US: very complete resident registration and IDs that tend to be pretty good.

      There are other issues as well. I do think the media here is way way different from what I see in the US and definitely in Venezuela. That’s also an issue.
      There is relatively good coordination between agencies for (normal) public security. And last but not least: there is rather good public basic education for everyone. I repeat: there is good basic education for everyone. I repeat…OK, you got it.
      You really have to think out of the box.

    • Laws about firearm ownership and carry are already stringent in Venezuela. From a psychiatric examination to supplicating the interior minister and justifying your request, paying good money, etc. etc. The results stand out for themselves. Even convicts in prisons carry military ordnance. Only the peaceable and law abiding do not.

      To me a firearm is an object that you can put in a drawer or stand in a closet. A mechanical artifact that propels projectiles. To keep, carry, buy or sell if you are responsible enough. Physical Property. Lethal? If misused.

      The people who use them for criminal purposes are another matter. Unless they are controlled, or rather, stopped for good, no gun control is ever going to make the slightest impact on crime. Only on peaceful fools who register their property in an honest manner.

  9. I did not mean to suggest that the issue is simple; it isn’t. But talking about leaded gasoline as a cause, and not the dispersal of firearms to all and sundry, seemed to me to be closing one’s eyes to an important factor.

    While el jefe’s post, above, gives fair examples of some of the difficulties and cultural blockages, I honestly do not think Venezuela can become a safer country without tackling the firearms issue.

  10. I never said that any one thing can be the cause( like the cold for example…..I am saying that each country is different and factors can be multiple and sometimes even unknown. It is part of the knee jerk left to always only blame guns when it is a myriad of factors in each case and their interplay.Things are not so simple.

    Just to give an example:What a small country without many immigrants with a strict disciplinary history and strong religious values does with guns might not be the same as what a large, diverse, highly populated country with few religious values does with guns.The correlation of guns and crime just is not there in ALL cases, and even when it is there it does not mean CAUSE.This is just simple logic.

    For Venezuela to improve crime it will take a a lot more than gun control in my opinion to reduce murders.We have to look at each country with a fresh eye,outside of the knee jerk box, and with its particulars in mind.

    Right now I am convinced that Chavez is promoting crime.I have many reasons to believe this.I also believe that drugs are a lot worse than what some people think, especially cocaine ,which tends to make people violent.

    You can eliminate guns and people can still cut off your head with a machete, poison you, run you over with a car,and hire criminals who do have guns to o your dirty work.

    I think you should do some research into just how many psychotics are estimated to be living in LA in general and more specifically Venezuela.

    Not that I don’t believe in more gun control, I do, but Jeffrey’s comment was knee jerk and incomplete.One idea did not necessarily follow another.

  11. This is the first time I have been called “knee jerk” for comparing the data at Statistics Canada with the disastrous Venezuelan, and semi-disastrous US data.

    To us in Canada, it is blindingly obvious that it is not “the cold” which causes Toronto to have 1/10th the homicides of Buffalo, New York, which has a (slightly) colder climate than we do because of the effects of Lake Ontario.

    I hope that suggestions which deviate from US practices will not regularly be met with insults.

  12. Hi Jeffry,
    I don’t mean to add too much topic drift, but the crime rate in the US is hardly semi-disasterous, compared to either Canada or Venezuela. True, there are violent areas, but most of that is criminal-on-criminal fighting over drug routes, turf, etc. The FBI has stated approximately 80% of crime is between criminals. Even with that, I have lived in two major metro areas my whole life (Minneapolis, 3.5 million people; Omaha, 1 million) where the annual homicide rate rarely breaks 60 and 20 people, respectively. Both areas have arsenal worth’s of firearms due to hunting and sport shooting.

    In comparison, my wife is from Manta, Ecuador with family in Caracas (which is why I follow this blog), and there the annual homicide rate exceeds 100 in a town of 200,000 people. Ecuador has much, much stricter gun laws than the US, but firearms are fairly easy to come by.

    The root of the problem in South America, as I see it, is a lack of rule of law. I’ve been to Ecuador many times and everybody there does pretty much whatever they want regardless of the consequences. Even if they are caught, a few hundred $$$ to the right person/judge and the problem goes away. I’ve heard many stories of murderers walking for as little as $100. I also know that money lenders will get violent for people that borrow as little as $20 and miss their payment.

    The eye-opening thing about Venezuela was when my wife’s family visited Ecuador from Caracas for Christmas 2009. They were absolutley amazed that people were out and about after sundown. We had a conversation where they told me that it is even too dangerous for kids to play in the street anymore. From the way they make it out, people are prisoners in their own houses and take large precautions every time they leave. Not very cool.

    Quico, Juan Cristobal, and all,
    Please keep up the excellent work on this blog. I am sure there are thousands of people like myself who read it on a regular basis, but never post anything. I wish the best to you and may Venezuela improve its situation.

    Take care,

    • Thanks Alex!

      If WordPress’s visitor logs are to be trusted, there are about 75 readers who never post anything per each one who stops to comment. That makes you like 98.7% of Caracas Chronicles readers!

      (Well, or at least it did, until you wrote in and instantaneously joined the 1.3% of freaks and misfits…)

    • Alek:

      This is the most obvious problem with Latin America. It’s so obvious that it glares.

      An incredibly corrupt government. It’s officials nonetheless insist in you fulfilling every single requisite in their insane procedures, down to using the right ballpen color, or else. And then on your paying an extra to get something done. Criminals, instead, seem to avoid all this hassle, even when they have to answer for a dead human being.

      How can insanely onerous regulations coexist alongside complete disregard for human life? How does one feel duly registering a .22 caliber when a murderer who used military-grade weapons bought from the Army to kill walks free? How, when you know that if you manage to finish the criminal’s career with your popgun in self-defense you will be detained and indicted? How, filling an export permit to do things legally, when there’s a guy literally moving tons of cocaine or diamonds or gold out of port? How, having the papers for your car current, when it can be stolen in 2 minutes in broad daylight? When they can find ways to “register” the car they stole from YOU?

      Answer: Not particularly respectful, and like a sucker (“pendejo”).

      We can begin instituting rule of law by taking the stupendously corrupt military (and the almost equally corrupt State “Security Services”) out of the gun regulation equation. And preferably, out of national life altogether.

  13. Thanks Alex. I suppose whether the US crime rate is semi-disastrous or not depends on what you are willing to put up with.

    By purest chance, today the Atlantic has some stats on whether gun control helps in reducing deaths:

    And what about gun control? As of July 29 of last year, Arizona became one of only three states that allows its citizens to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Might tighter gun control laws make a difference? Our analysis suggests that they do.

    The map overlays the map of firearm deaths above with gun control restrictions by state. It highlights states which have one of three gun control restrictions in place – assault weapons’ bans, trigger locks, or safe storage requirements.

    Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42), and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48).


  14. Hi Jeffrey,
    I took a quick look at the Atlantic article and was interesting. Unfortunately, there is a saying that goes: “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics”. The data looks massaged to fit the author’s view. But to stick to the topic; is there gun violence in the US? Yes. Is is horrific? Yes, especially for those involved as perpetrators and victims. Can it be stopped by strict gun control? Well, there is becomes more interesting. To give an example from my hometown, Minneapolis, most violent crime is in two areas. Lake street area in South Minneapolis (just south of downtown) and in North Minneapolis (NW side of the city). For eternal time that fact hasn’t changed. Why is that??? Everyone in the city lives under the same state gun laws. Poverty/lack of education/drug selling/drug abuse/alcoholism are just the visual indicators that things are awry in these neighborhoods. I would say gun control laws would have little effect, even including a total ban, because the criminals would always find a way to arm themselves, like in Venezuela or Ecuador.

    Am I willing to put up with the violence that is here? Yes. Maybe compared to Canada it is a murderous cesspool. But in my entire life I have never feared for my life, including walking alone after DJing in downtown Minneapolis at 2AM. I have never been robbed. Never had a knife or gun pulled on me. Neither has anyone in my extended family living here in the US. Now lets compare that my Ecuadorian side of my family from the last year: My wife’s uncle had his motorcycle stolen at gunpoint, my mother and father-in-law were at a small casino that was robbed at gunpoint and a person was shot, my brother-in-law was chased by armed thugs down a street for his cellphone, and my wife and her friends had their purses stolen from them at knifepoint at the exit of a local mall. That is only in the last year, my friend. I could go on from previous years. Now tell me where I wouldn’t want to to live… I can only imagine what Venezuela is like in comparison considering my wife’s family there said Ecuador was much safer in comparison.

    Finally, I would also like to refer back to what I said previously about rule-of-law. In the US more than 90% (closer to 95%) of homicides result in a conviction of the perpetrator. By comparison, it is under 10% (closer to 5%) in Mexico. I would think that it is similar in Ecuador and Venezuela. See in Canada and the US, if you commit a serious crime chances are you go to jail. If in Central/South America you get the “opportunity” to commit the same crime again, and again, and again……… That’s the crux of the issue.

    Jeffrey, I appreciate your civil replies. What needs to be understood is that we look at this from the perspective where we are already safe in first-world societies. My wife has the greatest appreciation of not having to live in fear on a daily basis anymore. The problem is that life is very much different when you have to walk-the-walk. Academics, journalists, and politicians are so far removed from the daily grind from what us plebs live that it would be comical if only they didn’t sway public opinion.

    Thanks if you have read this far. 🙂


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