Secrets and Lies

In a way, the most remarkable thing about El Universal’s front page story on the murder rate today isn’t that 8,839 Venezuelans have been murdered so far this year, or that killings are running at the rate of two per hour now, or even that the police has contrived to reclasify more than half the violent deaths in Caracas as “death investigations” rather than murders.

No. The most remarkable thing about that story is that El Universal had to rely on anonymous sources inside the Judicial Police to leak them the numbers because, in Venezuela, the police no longer publishes murder statistics.

It’s important to see this in conjunction with Congressman Ramos’s revelations on Fonden spending – unwittingly disclosed by a government that’s spent years working to keep that information out of the public sphere.

We’re talking about rock-bottom basic numbers here, the kind of building-blocks to an informed public debate a democracy can’t really do without: How much of the public’s money does the government spend? How many people are getting murdered? Public information doesn’t get very much more basic than that.

It’s hard for me to fathom how a nation kept deliberately ignorant of such facts could imaginably be said to know enough to govern itself freely.

But these days, finding out how many people get killed or how much the government spends count as journalistic coups somehow.