Crime Wave Downs 100 Venezuelan Police Officers
Español Venezuela is in midst of a violent crime wave, and not even police are immune to the bloodshed. As of September, 102 police officers have been killed in Caracas this year alone. Last Wednesday, September 23, three officers where shot dead in different parts of the country.
In an impoverished area within the central state of Miranda, unidentified gunmen shot and killed 25-year-old Luis Alberto Pérez, a member of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB). They broke into his home, subdued him, and forced Pérez to put on his uniform before executing him in his backyard.
That same day, in the southern state of Bolívar, unknown gunmen shot and killed José Román Guerrero, a 32-year-old municipal police officer. Guerrero was standing in front of home in civilian attire when he was shot in the head.
The third officer killed on Wednesday, José Gregorio García, was attacked while taking part in the government’s “Operation People’s Liberation,” which is meant to crackdown on criminals in the dangerous Cota 905 neighborhood in Caracas.
The number of state security agents killed in the recent years has increased significantly, growing from 59 murders in 2010 to 132 in 2014.
Last July, police chiefs from across the country gathered to address the rise in acts of violence against police and introduced proposals to “contain officer killings.”
Criminal lawyer and criminologist Luis Izquiel tells the PanAm Post that while the exact number of police officers killed in Venezuela is unknown, current data points to at least one per day.
Iziquiel says that criminals often target police officers to steal their guns or motorcycles, and are also motivated by vengeance and the perception of police killings as a “badge of honor,” among other reasons.
4. Hay desmoralización cada día mayor en la policía de Venezuela según el observatorio venezolano de la violencia(OVV) #MaduroNoGarantizaPaz
— Fernando Araújo CD 4 Senado #YoSoyUribe (@FNAraujoR) August 31, 2015
“According to the National Observatory of Violence, morale among police officers is low, and decreasing.”
“The number of police officers murdered perhaps best represents the obscene levels of violence in Venezuela,” he says. “People ask themselves, if criminals are killing police officers — those who are supposed to represent the authority of the state — what’s left for ordinary citizens?”
Active Peace conducted the survey with the support of the European Union in July and August of this year and polled 3,500 people from various parts of the country. Of those surveyed, more than half said they had been a victim of crime within the last 12 months.
Over 50 percent of respondents say gangs are responsible for the violence, while 49.5 percent blame the jailed heads of criminal cartels, and 20 percent say paramilitary forces are behind the crime wave.
Izquiel says that the total number of homicides in Venezuela is on pace to surpass the previous year. “At the moment, we have seen a 9 percent increase compared to last year,” he says.
Lynchings on the Rise
According to the survey, close to 70 percent of Venezuelans do not believe the state is capable of properly combating crime, and may look to take the law into their own hands. So far this year, angry mobs have lynched 25 alleged criminals in Venezuela.
“This is a symptom of our social ills and unrest,” Izquiel says. He adds that such behavior must be condemned as it only encourages further criminality.
Failed Crackdown on Crime
The so-called Operation People’s Liberation (OLP), the latest government plan to crackdown on criminality, has left hundreds dead, including police officers and innocent citizens, as well as alleged criminals.
However, the legal watchdog group Provea says that only a 9.1 percent of those detained during these police raids are linked to criminal activities.
Izquiel tells the PanAm Post that he believes the OLP is President Nicolás Maduro’s attempt to improve the government’s image with regards to security policy, as the country approaches parliamentary elections scheduled for December.