No shortage of violence

959ef27a-0d81-4da0-b86a-cbbf320a8b58_W_00960Public attention in the last few days has been all about the long, long queues in the country’s supermarkets, and the shortage of food and other basic products. But the other main problem for Venezuelans continues: unabated, relentless crime.

Last Thursday afternoon, a burial took place at the local cemetery in the town of Turmero (Aragua State), when a shoot-out started. Seven people were killed, and five others wounded.

Who did this and why? Well, the story gets somewhat worse from here.

The burial was for a 29-year old criminal, known locally as “El Mocho Willy” (“One-armed Willy,” not to be confused with One-eyed Willy). Willy was murdered on Monday in strange circumstances, but it might have had something to do with the fact that he was quite the local thug, involved in extorting and racketeering local townsfolk.

A rival band known as “El Toñito” decided to take revenge on the rest of Willy’s associates. The reason? The death of five men on New Year’s Eve, reportedly murdered by Willy himself.

Had enough of it? Sorry, but this wasn’t the only violent incident. Perhaps you remember another criminal gang mentioned in a recent post of mine, “El Picure”? Eight of its members were killed in a joint operation between the Criminal Investigations Police (CICPC) and the National Guard over the weekend in East Anzoategui State. However, the leader of the band (El Picure himself) still remains at large.

Finally, five police officers were killed in separate incidents in Caracas and Miranda State. Last year alone, 132 cops died in the line of duty in the Venezuelan capital. That’s more than double than the number of police casualties in the entire U.S of A.

December was the most violent month of 2014, and January is doing a great job catching up. The crime epidemic remains unhinged, even if both our public opinion and the central government’s efforts are put elsewhere – recall that President Nicolás Maduro announced that he would devote 100% of his time this year to fight the “economic war”.

One final detail: remember the time when the late comandante presidente blamed the crime wave on our neighbor Colombia? Well, 2014 saw the fewest number of homicides there in the last three decades. And as much I would like to compare the two countries in this regard, it’s sort of impossible as official crime statistics here have been almost non-existent in recent years. Even Honduras, the country with the worst murder rate in the world, releases data.

However, we know it is higher than Colombia’s measly 27.8 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Much higher.