Venezuela suffers from one of the world’s highest homicide rates, with Caracas in particular often named as one of the world’s most dangerous cities. According to the NGO Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia, 24,763 Venezuelans were murdered in 2013, placing the homicide rate at 79 per 100,000 people.
An example of the senselessness and randomness that characterizes Venezuelan murders, 39-year-old Pablo Delgado was murdered on Saturday in the Sabana Grande area of Caracas. Delgado was on his way home on foot when he was intercepted by robbers, who took his cell phone and key chain. During the robbery, Delgado was shot in the right leg. He subsequently bled to death.
The Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, spoke on the issue of homicide over the weekend, and said that 76% of murders occur during confrontations between gangs, or between gangs and security forces.
Torres also controversially suggested that since most of the murders in the country happen either between criminals or between criminals and police forces, these kinds of murders “are not directly attributable” to a lack of security in the country. In other words, Torres suggested that these types of murders are fundamentally different from murders whose victims are not gang members.
He also said that the homicide rate has decreased by 17.7%, although he did not mention over which time period. Torres estimates that, according to official figures, 2014 might end in a homicide rate of 32 per 100,000 people, a figure that would put the year below the homicide rates for 2013 (39 per 100,000) and 2012 (57 per 100,000).
Torres also spoke on a series of cases that have shaken Caracas – that of three dismembered bodies found scattered around the city. Torres attempted to downplay the severity of the crimes, saying that they were “crimes of passion”, that they were not in any way related to each other, and that they are not something the average citizen should fear:
What’s happening in our society that differences between couples are being resolved in this way? They’re murders, they’re homicides, they’re added up to the official figures, but they’re not a security problem. They’re household problems.
Unofficial Figures Put Inflation at 66.1%
Economist Jose Guerra, speaking on the Sunday talk show “Dialogo Con…” Carlos Croes, spoke on the rate on inflation in the country, saying:
In June, inflation was 5.7%; in July, 5.2%, an the annualized inflation rate – that is, from August 2013 to August 2014, was 66.1%. The worst part is food inflation is nearing 90%. Do you know what 90% inflation means for someone who earns minimum wage? How do they eat? How do they have access to food?
Official statistics on the rate of inflation and other economic numbers have become increasingly scarce in the country. as the Banco Central de Venezuela has now gone three months without releasing any official data without any explanation.
Passport Backlog Causes 6-Block Long Line Up in Barquisimeto
Venezuelans looking to renew or receive new passports in Barquisimeto were forced to endure a line up that stretched six blocks this weekend.
According to some of the people waiting, the line up at the office of the Servicio Administrativo de Identificacion, Migracion y Extranjeria [Identification, Migration and Foreign Identification Service] (SAIME) in the city started to form at 5:00 AM. The people at the front of the line only started to emerge from the office with their passports in hand at around 10:00 AM.
The line ups were caused by a backlog of passports that finally arrived in Barquisimeto this weekend. A total of approximately 20,000 passports were delivered to the office, many of them going back as far as September 2013. Yaneth Garcia, one of the people in line, said:
I asked for my passport in January and I’ve been waiting for it since. I’m taking advantage of the fact that they open on Saturday to get my passport. I knew that I’d have to line up for hours, but it’s better to come today than to lose a whole day of work.
Domingo Espinosa, another Barquisimeto citizen, was less optimistic. He’s been attempting to retrieve his passport from the Barquisimeto office for the last two months. Espinosa said:
When I get here, the line up is kilometres long, so I have no hope of getting my passport. I’d rather go home than stay here waiting for five hours.
Line ups are a common occurrence in Venezuela, though they are arguably more depressing when they take place outside supermarkets. Below is a video from the island of Margarita taken two days ago, showing line ups at supermarkets on the island:
My translation below:
Narrator: Anger and indignation is what the people of El Calvario express when they try to buy food.
Woman with Baby: People have been lined up here since 3:00 AM. How is that possible? They said that they brought a whole bunch of milk, and now they’re saying there’s no milk. Why? This is how we live. It feels like we’re in Cuba.
Woman in Purple: This is chaos. We have to line up here every day starting at 3:00 AM until 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, or until the owners of the store feel like bringing out the food. I haven´t found corn flour in a month and a half.
Elderly Woman: … food isn’t bought based on your I.D. The food is sent by the government, who then distribute it around. They wouldn´t sell me everything. I´m really angry. All because I didn’t have my I.D. with me.
Narrator: They remember with nostalgia the time when they were able to make a monthly budget and buy whatever they needed.
Woman in Black: On Mondays, you go out and buy chicken and regulated meat, because that´s the way it is. Tomorrow we buy rice, cooking oil, and pasta. Then, we go out and buy something else. Every day of the week we go out and buy something to keep stocking up at home. So, every day we line up. We line up for diapers, milk, sanitary pads, razors, shampoo, corn flakes, milk [sic], deodorant…
Narrator: Authorities say that food is arriving regularly on the island despite evidence to the contrary, but the opposition disagrees and says that the state-owned shipping companies does not have boats for heavy shipping.
Official in Red Hat: They’ve arrived, and they continue to arrive. We have to be clear. Four ships have already arrived since Minister [of Food], Garcia Plaza came that time, right? One ship came three times, and one time one other ship. The first time, 26 containers arrived, then after that, 4… 26 more came, then 47, and the last time 93 containers of food came. That’s more than 5,400 tonnes of food.
Opposition Figure in Yellow: … less than a week ago a truck’s thermostat broke, and that meant that a truck full of chicken was lost on its way to Margarita island. This government, with the excuse of improving Conferry [a shipping company], confiscated it – because I think they haven’t paid for it yet. Moreover, it increased tariffs by more than 200%. Sadly, not one, not two, but four ships that serviced [food] trucks are stuck in Puerto La Cruz.
Narrator: Even though its an island, Margarita’s citizens and politicians have claimed that smuggling also affects the island. This has become a point of contention of the economic policies of the Nicolas Maduro administration.
Finally, a few pictures of Maduro and other government officials opening a social housing project in Ciudad Tiuna, Caracas this past Friday: