President Maduro recently announced the National Police (PNB) would be restructured to “recover its original vision and impetus” . This should be a big deal: PNB is a hugely important institution, our front line in the war on crime. But of course – classic Maduro – the announcement was buried by 10 other announcements, leaving uncertainty as to the directions and impacts of the “reform”
The PNB is a fairly new institution. It was only founded in October of 2009 out of a decent (by Chavista standards) institutional effort by the then CONAREPOL (National Commission for the Police Reform) to move towards a less-militarized police system.
It was a step in the right direction. The founding of the PNB, although controversial, was built on a vision of citizen security based on a community approach, human rights and citizen-led rather than the classic military-led policing.
That was then. Fast forward seven years and the Interior Minister — Nestor Reverol — is a National Guard Major General -again-. Worse, the Director of the PNB now also a National Guard Major General: Franklin García Duque (this one was appointed via ministerial tweet, ferchristsake!)
Nuestro Comandante en Jefe ha designado al M/G. Franklin García Duque como nuevo Dir. Gral y Cmdte. del CPNB
— Néstor Luis Reverol (@NestorReverol) September 15, 2016
Then there’s the little but significant things, like the PNB’s newly unveiled uniforms. Fashion for the season is decidedly marshall: urban camouflage paired with —I shit you not— a red beret. That’s as clear a message as you could hope for that the police is returning to its traditional (and failed) military style.
Is Maduro investing in the police or rewarding some military enchufado in the ministry?
All the money spent, all the meetings held, all the studies and the preparations and the coalition building over the last 10 years were for nothing. Moreover, the differences between PNB and GNB are already quite blurred, and my guess is that the GNB will increasingly assume more PNB functions. Militarizing citizen security, a little more Sebin style. And with the militarization of citizen security, the malas mañas from the military come along…
In that same cadena, Maduro announced a 25MM$ investment in police equipment. The question is, is Maduro investing in the police or rewarding some military enchufado in the ministry?
The ministry has a bit of a track record in this regard. In 2014, as part of the Plan de Patrullaje Inteligente, the Interior Ministry bought -only for Caracas- 158 light SUVs (Machitos). Here’s the thing: the Machitos were made in Iran and bought through a complicated deal involving intermediaries in Argentina and Ecuador (and their bank accounts). Result: police stations around the country, ended up with vehicles it is impossible to find spare parts for, and more and more of them rust gently in the sun. As for this new investment, Efecto Cocuyo has -apparently- already identified a 100% overpricing on the gun rates announced by the government which are also going to be purchased at the DICOM rate. Que papaya…
Maduro, before buying, how about avoiding CAVIM’s Grenades or rocket launchers making their way to criminals first?
Until last month, the basic salary of a police officer was just Bs.12,543, so the new salary will be around 18.000 Bs…that’s not even enough for a daily fresco.
Citizen security is far from a priority It’s well known that there have been over 20 failed citizen security plans that have cost the nation millions with very poor results to display. The need for better equipment is obvious, but what use will it have in a “Zona de Paz’? Moreover, what happened with “Patrullaje Inteligente” or the “VEN 911”? Volatility and improvisation have killed any effort to improve current situation. The new investment is a complete waste if you don’t have more police to use the newly acquired guns, which is precisely the case.
Last but not least, Maduro also announced a 50% wage increase for cops, lagging pathetically far behind this year’s 720% inflation forecast . Until last month, the basic salary of a police officer was just Bs.12,543, so the new salary will be around 18.000 Bs…that’s not even enough for a daily fresco. Although not new, it’s still amazing to compare citizen security versus defense, where the later receives 4 times as much money in the national budget.
Considering that crime has been one of Venezuela’s main problems over the last two decades it’s worrying that we are running straight to a more military-oriented police, increasing even more the political, economic and institutional power the military hold over the state.
Chances of recovering in terms of citizen security look similar to those of the economy. Maybe a good first step would be to de-militarize both.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.