"A city with wartime levels of violence but no war."

Dorothy Kronick strikes again. First this, now this all-too-rare-in-foreign-media meditation on just how weird Venezuela’s urban violence epidemic is, with bloodletting on a scale normally associated with war spreading despite the absence of identifiable warring factions.

Personally, though, I think Kevin Ávila-style thug eruptions like the ones at UCV last week aren’t the best way to illustrate the mass anomic violence in the barrios. They’re the politically-motivated exception, not the senseless general rule.

It’s true that the government doesn’t directly control either form of violence, but I don’t see Chávez literally hugging random azotes de barrio like he did Kevin. Which makes a difference, I think.

That’s picking a nit, though. The broader point is that, in spite of itself, the government is making the case for liberalization more forcefully each day:

They take direct control of the cement sector and – puff – cement production plummets. They centralize the electric sector in its entirety and, pretty soon, the lights go out. They crowd out all other big players in food distribution and – ta da! – it’s impossible to find milk…

The one sector to flourish is the only one they’ve left to get on free of any attempt at top-down central control: shooting people.

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