With inflation tripling and everything in short supply, it’s no wonder that things are spiraling out of control in Venezuela. Shortages of food and toilet paper can’t be a good sign. The chaos and crime has skyrocketed with police becoming the target.
THE LAW OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING OBAMA WOULD WANT FOR AMERICA: “It wasn’t always like that. Mayorca, who has been covering crime in Venezuela for 23 years, remembers the days when reporters could browse through homicide records freely.
Then, in 2005, this access was restricted by the judicial police, shortly after former president Hugo Chávez passed the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.”
CARACAS, Venezuela — A group of young crime reporters stood in a circle outside the Bello Monte morgue, the main one in this city, as they do most days. There they wait patiently for a tip from the police so they can dash off to a crime scene, or for a victim’s relative to walk up and share their story.
It is these reporters who provide the most reliable murder estimate in one of the most violent countries in the world, where NGOs accuse the government of failing to reflect reality in their official death counts. The reporters take turns standing guard in front of the morgue, counting bodies as they come in.
“The government wants to make information about crime invisible,” said Javier Mayorca, a crime reporter for El Nacional newspaper. He holds regular shifts outside the morgue. “The only way we reporters have to reflect violence in Caracas and all of Venezuela is going to the morgue,” he said.
It wasn’t always like that. Mayorca, who has been covering crime in Venezuela for 23 years, remembers the days when reporters could browse through homicide records freely.
Then, in 2005, this access was restricted by the judicial police, shortly after former president Hugo Chávez passed the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television. By 2009, reporters could no longer freely trail after cops. In recent years, police officers who share information with the press have been punished by being denied promotions and having their phones tapped, while authorities are asking victims’ relatives not to talk to reporters, Mayorca said.
Mayorca says that by his count there have so far been about 16 violent deaths a day in Caracas in May alone, up from 14 a month earlier this year.
The Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a well-respected research institution, estimates that there were 82 murders for every 100,000 citizens last year — more than 13 times the global average. According to the UN, Venezuela has the second-highest homicide rate after Honduras. By contrast, the Venezuelan government said there were 39 murders per 100,000 population in 2013, according to local press reports.
Security experts say the fact that the true extent of the violence is hidden is, in part, what allows it to grow unabated. And they are seeing a new disturbing trend this year. Among those being increasingly targeted are police officers, as criminals seek more weapons and street cred.
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