Murders hit new record in Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela, already the most violent country in South America, recorded a new high of almost 21,000 murders in 2012, a non-governmental organization that monitors crime here said Thursday, December 27.
"We can conservatively estimate that 2012 will end with 21,692 deceased victims of violence, a rate of 73 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants," the Venezuelan Violence Observatory said in its annual report.
"During 2012 there was a widespread increase of violence in Venezuela... despite the various measures taken by the government," the group said.
Venezuela was already considered the most violent country in South America, with 50 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants last year, a total of 14,092 murders, according to official government figures in 2011.
The Observatory, which put the 2011 figure at 19,336 -- a rate of 67 murders per 100,000 inhabitants -- said 2012 had seen another 12 percent rise. No officials figures have been published yet for this year.
Unlike other Latin American countries, Venezuela is not in the throes of a drug war or battling guerrillas.
But most crimes in Venezuela are committed with guns.
Between nine and 15 million legal and illegal weapons were in circulation in a country of almost 29 million people, according to official figures from 2009.
"Killings have become a way of executing property crimes, a mechanism to resolve personal conflicts and a way to apply private justice," the Observatory explained, pointing as well to a big spike in the number of kidnappings.
President Hugo Chavez has admitted Venezuela has a "serious" crime problem. The government created a national police force in 2009 and last year it launched special security operations and a disarmament program.
Chavez, who is due to be sworn in for another six-year term next month, is currently in Havana recovering from a cancer operation and has left Vice President Nicolas Maduro in charge.
Maduro issued his first decree on Thursday, extending a job security measure to all workers. - Rappler.com