Crime - and nothing else

Mónica Spear and her husband were not the only ones who died yesterday.

There was also Guido Méndez, a university professor, and his mother Glory, both killed inside their Catia apartment. There was Kelvin Tortoza and his friend Alejandro Torres, both in their twenties, shot to death while they were talking on the street in Paracotos. There were many more in other corners of Venezuela. Their stories are just as important, just as shocking.

But there was also another casualty – yesterday, hope for rationality in our public sphere died a little bit too.

Any time somebody in a position of power says that crime is a “societal” problem and that we are all “guilty,” any time these words are uttered in our public sphere … the solution to the problem becomes harder to reach.

I can’t stress this enough, but when a high-ranking official such as the Interior Minister says crime is a problem for “society,” he is indicating he has no clue what to do, that he is overwhelmed by his task. And every day a tool like Rodríguez Torres remains on the job is a day more Venezuelans are senselessly killed.

The link is direct. Rodríguez Torres cashes a paycheck – and people die.

Ultimately, the sad part about this is how many people believe this crap. We’ve all heard it said, by poor and not-so-poor people: “well, what are you going to do?” Even smart people who should know better fall into this line of thinking. I am reminded of the chavistas we met in Parapara two years ago, saying that crime in Mexico or the US was worse. “I watch the Simpsons, I know what those countries are like,” said the ignorant sap.

Society is at fault, ergo nobody is at fault. And until we change society, well … there’s nothing to be done.

To which I say: baloney. Society is the victim here, not the culprit. That disconnect between the government’s actions and people’s day-to-day lives is what is really distressing about the Spear case.

Chavismo’s strategy is quite simple – dilute the problem, wish it goes away on its own, fudge the numbers, and take credit for non-existent gains. If things are bad, it’s society’s fault. If things are good, it’s all thanks to the Revolution.

In the meantime, our people’s civic consciousness is washed away like the sheets at the Bello Monte morgue. When people don’t see the link between the government’s mediocrity and the blood of their loved ones, spilled on the pavement of a Carabobo highway, we’ve lost all hope for rational discourse.

There is very little the opposition can do, of course.

It can’t solve the crime issue because if has no control over judicial policy. Crime is not really about cops, as I wrote in Foreign Policy yesterday – it’s about prosecutors, judges, and prisons, all woefully inadequate in today’s Venezuela, all belonging to the exclusive realm of the government and their Cuban caretakers. This, however, will not prevent the government from shifting the blame to the opposition – can you imagine what they would have said if Spear had died in a Miranda highway?

What the opposition can do, however, is make sure they talk about it nonstop. The crisis is so severe, it makes no sense to talk about anything else, communicational hegemony be damned. Quaint discussions regarding toilet paper or which politician went where for the holidays are about as relevant as arguing over the current tax policy in Syria.

Zero in on the crime issue, folks, because it’s the only thing that matters. We have a society that does not understand the link between public policy and their livelihood, and unless that changes … that’s a society that’s really not worth governing.