The Crime Problem In Venezuela

None of this, of course, comes as a surprise to right-wingers:

The bigger problem for Maduro and his allies is how to explain the government’s failed public-safety record after 14 years in power. The government stopped publishing crime data 10 years ago, and it’s easy to see why. Venezuela’s homicide rate has grown fourfold during the past 15 years, with 79 homicides per 100,000 people last year, according to estimates by Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a non-governmental institution that tries to piece together crime figures.

Such numbers make the socialist-led country the third most dangerous nation, after El Salvador and Honduras. By comparison, the 2012 homicide rate in the U.S., the world’s bastion of capitalism, stood at 4.7 homicides per 100,000. And that was considered high among rich countries.

Venezuela’s death count has even come close to that of Iraq (with a comparable population), where there happened to be a war. From 2003 through 2011, Venezuelan homicides were 124,000, or 76 percent of the body count in Iraq during that same period. That’s a shocking toll for a nation in peace time.

Full post here.

37 Responses to “The Crime Problem In Venezuela”

  • Wow. Just wow. There’s so much poor reasoning here I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll just work my way through it from the start.

    “Venezuela’s homicide rate has grown fourfold during the past 15 years, with 79 homicides per 100,000 people last year, according to estimates by Venezuelan Observatory of Violence…”

    As best I can tell from Googling, that organization is very much aligned with the opposition in Venezuela. So it’s really not an unbiased source. See here for stats from the Venezuelan government that peg the homicide rate at about 42 per 100,000. That’s a big difference.

    So even the premise of the argument that “socialism has caused increased violent crime in Venezuela” is probably faulty. But let’s pretend for a moment that the premise is correct, even though it probably isn’t, and continue our analysis.

    “Such numbers make the socialist-led country the third most dangerous nation, after El Salvador and Honduras.”

    That’s an interesting statistic. And what about El Salvador and Honduras? Have they also been Socialist for the last fifteen years? They’re haven’t? Oh. So an equally correct way to phrase this is: “Such numbers make the non-socialist countries of El Salvador and Honduras the first and second most dangerous countries in the world, while socialist Venezuela is less dangerous than both.”

    “By comparison, the 2012 homicide rate in the U.S., the world’s bastion of capitalism, stood at 4.7 homicides per 100,000. And that was considered high among rich countries.”

    Um, ok. So we’re admitting here that the “bastion of capitalism” has a high crime rate too. Doesn’t that kind of invalidate the entire “socialism causes crime” argument?

    And who are these rich countries that have lower crime rates than the U.S.? No, let me guess! I’m going to guess some of them are socialist Sweden, socialist The Netherlands, socialist Japan and socialist Germany. I don’t think I’ll even bother to google this one and provide a link since we all know that’s correct.

    And, finally, how is it that the violent crime rate has dropped dramatically in the U.S. over the last thirty years, while (according to virtually every conservative I talk to) the U.S. is also becoming more and more socialist? How does that fit into the “socialism causes crime” hypothesis?

    Bottom Line:
    This is just a stupid article. There are lots of very good theories with lots of good supporting evidence about what causes violent crime – see Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, for an interesting one. But the theory that socialism leads to increased crime is just ridiculous on it’s face.

  • Honduras and El Salvador are right wing places though, right? El Salvador has a long and bloody history of US death squads simply murdering socialists. Archbishop Romero, nuns, other well known cases. Honduras recently had that coup that ousted the leftist president. So it’s interesting to notice the focus of right wing ire. If anything we should be more concerned with the rates in Honduras and El Salvador, since we are more responsible for the problems there (our backing of the coup in Honduras, the vast military support provided to El Salvador). Instead the lesser problems of the places for which we are not responsible are the focus.

    While I am convinced Venezuela’s recent years have been helpful for the poor it’s still true that they are relatively poor. So the comparison of their murder rate to the US, the world’s richest country, simply doesn’t make any sense. They should be compared to other nations that are comparable to some degree, don’t you think?

    If Lawrence is right and the murder rate has doubled in Venezuela, that’s definitely something worth noticing. But I like to notice the different categories of “bad things” that get focused on. You have 1-The stuff we are responsible for. Not frequently discussed. El Salvador, Uzbekistan, Colombia. 2-The stuff the bad guys do. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, N Korea. Plenty of discussion there. Then there’s 3-The stuff that we aren’t responsible for and being done by people that are not our enemies. This is also generally ignored. So if Fidel jailed a blogger it’s big news. If in El Salvador they run a total terror state, machete chopping journalists in the street for criticizing the right wing government, it’s not mentioned much, or if it is it’s discussed like it’s an anomaly, unfortunate accident that the government is trying to rectify.

    Venezuela has problems like everyone does, but they are not our responsibility, and frankly they are much smaller than a lot of places that we are terrorizing now. So why do we talk about them so much? Investors don’t like them because they aren’t as easily able to make money there, as they can in Colombia where union organizers get murdered. So Bloomberg notices their problems and focuses on them and doesn’t focus on the problems in the business friendly places.

  • LaurenceB,

    The author is using socialism in the stronger sense – government controlling the means of production. Dont think the author means to put welfare capitalist countries (Sweden, etc) to fall under that category.


    I know we disagree, but to restate: I dont believe Honduras and El Salvador to be right wing places.

  • HP,

    It would be hard to find a country that controls the means of production more than Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Do you want to guess what their homicide rate is? I can google it for you, but do I really need to? We both know it’s far, far lower than the United States.

    This whole theory is just so dumb it’s unbelievable.

  • Laurence, this is a situation where crime increased massively in a single country. You can ignore the comparison to other countries, but something in the last 15 years seems to have caused it. HP could be wrong about the cause, but the change within the country indicates that something changed to cause it. Could it be less respect for private property and a political culture that encourages envy?

    Well, maybe and maybe not. HP is a little glib about right-wingers seeing this a mile away, but it isn’t something that can be dismissed out of hand.

  • darferrara,

    Here’s a quick list of possible reasons for the increase in violent crime in Venezuela. Most of these merit further consideration. One of them really does not. See if you can pick it out.

    1. Venezuela has the highest inflation rate in the western hemisphere.
    2. It’s possible that Chavez has weakened the judicial system through political cronyism.
    3. Police officers salaries are too low in Venezuela, leading to decreased motivation and even moonlighting in criminal activities.
    4. Widespread illegal firearms.
    5. Political pressure from Chavistas has caused experienced government officials to leave office or even leave the country.
    6. Political opponents in state and municipal governments have been punished by decreased federal funding, effecting local police efforts.
    7, The gap between poor and rich in Venezuela remains extremely high, even by Latin American standards.
    8. Poor economic conditions and fluctuating oil prices have effected the amount of money the Venezuelan government has at its disposal for policing.
    9. Increased drug trafficking via Venezuela.
    10. Socialism has caused poor people to be envious of rich people and to have no respect for private property.

    Before choosing the least likely explanation, remember that Cuba and Nicaragua are at least as left-leaning as Venezuela, yet their respective violent crime statistics are relatively low by Latin American standards.

  • A right-winger might notice a correlation between at least half of those points (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and point 10, but you are correct that there are many possible explanations for the increase in violent crime rate.

  • Venezuela has had some tough things to deal with economically. Remember that in 2002 there was the coup. That’s not good for business. They also had private oil companies running the show, so when Chavez came in there was effectively a capital strike. This blocked oil exports for a while until Chavez took over. Today they deal with massive inflation. I haven’t looked into the reasons specifically, but I know this is typical for places that are subjected to financial warfare. Nixon’s orders for Chile were to make the economy scream after Allende came in and they instituted polices that led to inflation.

    A question I have for the right wing types. If socialism is so bad why don’t we just let some place try it without being molested? Why not just let it fail on it’s own so we can see how bad it is? The so called failure of Cuba would only be evidence if we hadn’t been at war with them for the last 60 years. Let them fail on their own. The powerful don’t allow it, and internal documents show that they fear these places will succeed. Do you think those powerful people are wrong?

  • Jon,

    Sometimes socialist countries are allowed to proceed unmolested. When some of them subsequently become wildly successful by nearly every measure, conservatives begin to refer to them as “Welfare Capitalist” countries, thereby avoiding the cognitive dissonance of having to admit that there are plenty of socialist success stories.

    See HP’s earlier comment in this thread for an example.

    But, at least in this hemisphere, you are generally correct that the U.S. has been quite successful in keeping that experiment from happening. Which is unfortunate.

  • I would say the places that have been allowed to proceed unmolested are kind of quasi socialist. Kind of half way between socialist and capitalist. So like in Norway the means of production are held privately, so investors still get a piece of the pie even though they don’t work. But there is some control of the means of production via government i.e. by the people, so this is where capitalism kind of shades into socialism. As long as those investors continue to get a good cut the armies stay home.

    What Cuba did, which is unacceptable, is they said that the fruits of their labor don’t go to Wall St at all. Cubans get to keep what they produce, and they can trade or whatever. Now the wealthiest people in the world who don’t work find themselves having to work for a living like others if they want money, and they’re just not going to stand for it. So this is the difference between Cuba and Norway and explains why one is attacked and the other isn’t.

    I think what would become obvious if socialism was permitted is capitalists are just parasites. So if a country stops paying the parasite they will prosper, and that is what is really frightening to the capitalist because then others will do the same and now the capitalist has to work for a living too. They don’t want that. They want all the money and none of the work. So it’s not that Cuba is feared. What’s feared is the example Cuba sets. If they can proceed unmolested they will succeed, others will do the same, and now the richest and laziest no longer collect the largest share of the money while doing none of the work.

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