Simón Romero’s August 23 article on crime in Venezuela – “Venezuela, More Deadly Than Iraq, Wonders Why” – largely understated the efforts being made by the Venezuelan government to address crime, violence and delinquency in the country. It also played directly into an issue being politicized for the sake of the Venezuelan opposition’s hopes in legislative elections scheduled for September 26.
Just like in many other countries in Latin America, crime is a difficult reality that has long affected Venezuelans of all walks of life, one that has many roots that cannot be addressed in isolation or resolved overnight. In recent years, the Venezuelan government has taken a number of steps to deal with crime, violence and delinquency, including the establishment of a new police force and aggressive steps to fight poverty and inequality.
In one municipality in Caracas, the newly deployed Bolivarian National Police’s close work with the community led to a 52 percent drop in homicides from January to August 2010. In the same period, gender-related violence fell 64 percent. Additionally, the Venezuelan government’s dramatic expansion of social services has also played an important role in helping address the root causes of crime. According to the UN, Venezuela is first amongst 12 Latin American countries in the reduction of inequality. Over the last decade, poverty has dropped dramatically in Venezuela, while access to education and health have increased.
Unfortunately, the most recent controversy over crime in Venezuela was largely manufactured for political ends. One of the country’s largest newspapers, El Nacional, published an eight-month-old picture of the Caracas morgue with the stated intention of influencing the outcome of September’s legislative elections. It has long been known that alarmist media reports of crime sow fear within communities, and El Nacional sought to do exactly that by publishing a gruesome image only weeks before an important round of elections.
Crime is a difficult challenge with roots that extend far beyond the tenure of President Hugo Chávez, but the government is working as hard as possible to address it. With the new national police force and a continued campaign to decrease poverty and inequality throughout Venezuela, the problems of crime, violence and delinquency will remain amongst the government’s most immediate priorities. Unfortunately, they are being used for political ends by the Venezuelan opposition, and Romero’s slanted article on the issue fell directly into that trap.
BERNARDO ÁLVAREZ HERRERA
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela