Las cifras del odio / Fernando Luis Egaña

Figures of Hate

Just over 7 years ago, in 1998, the number of violent deaths or murders registered by the statistics division of the then-named PTJ [Policía Técnica y Judicial, or, Technical and Judicial Police] was 4,440. For 2003 that figure had shot up to nearly 14 thousand homicides, which is equivalent to an increase of more than 300%. Such a spiral of criminal violence has no precedents in the documented history of crime in Venezuela.

Seven years ago, the number of kidnappings perpetrated within the national territory was 50, especially in regions bordering Colombia. In 2003, the year in which the last official figure was provided by the Cicpc [Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas, or, Division of Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations], the figure had ascended to 277. That’s to say, a leap of more than 500% in only a five-year period. It is very probable that the most recent data is even more onerous, and also, kidnappings, including the “express” type, ceased being a border phenomenon and multiplied up and down the entire country, and especially in the large cities of the central-northern-coastal strip.

In almost the entire decade of the 90s, the average of violent deaths in Venezuela oscillated between 2,500 and 4,500 per year. During the cluster of the last 7 years the number of homicides has reached a figure close to 70 thousand. In other words, seventy thousand inhabitants of this land have been murdered between 1999 and the fragment of 2006 up until today. This is why according to the United Nations, ours has become one of the most violent societies in the world, and the number of deaths is near to that of a country undergoing an international military conflict or a civil war.

The number of homicides in Venezuela is very similar to that of the United States.

Except that country has 280 million people, what amounts to 10 times the population of ours. In the bloodiest civil war in Latin America’s modern history, in El Salvador from the end of the 70s until the beginning of the 90s, the casualties recorded as a result of the political violence are of a similar magnitude as those caused by criminal actions in Venezuela, during the period president Chávez has been in power.

All these realities account for a reversal or an accelerated involution in regards to the conditions of citizens’ safety, or on the other side of the coin: the unbridled boom of criminals in all their modalities of action. The arguments brandished by the authorities in order to justify themselves and disqualify the innumerable criticisms and accusations are an insult to the intelligence of Venezuelans. This is particularly true in the case of the scoffing comment that places the blame for the spiraling crime wave on the decentralized police departments of the nation.

Truth be told, the 7 and a half years of Chávez are, in and of themselves, among the worst figures of hate.

{ Fernando Luis Egaña, TalCual, 2 May 2006 }

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