Measuring death in the government of Chávez

Crime is one of the main problems facing Venezuela now. In the last weeks a series of events have brought the discussion to the forefront: propaganda minister Izarra laughing on CNN about murder statistics, more protests from everybody about the persistent crime and recently an apparent leak of an official report that shows the murder rate may be higher than previously thought.

I have been blogging for years about the problem. I have been particularly puzzled by the very unprofessional way in which many organizations deal with the issue: the regime has kept blaming it on previous governments, numbers are thrown back and forth, only now people try to talk about actual murder rates and almost no one has demanded from the govermnent to publish the real numbers. No newspaper in Venezuela seems to see any use in charts to represent trends and only lately did they see fit to compare rates with that of other countries.

I have kept a count of murders for Carabobo, my region, for several years now. I owe it to Notitarde. I never used to read Notitarde until I came to Europe but I decided to read the grim crime section at least once a month because Notitarde keeps a monthly report on statistics. The report is based not on polls as other sources, but on the reports from the state police and the and the mortuaries. There are isolated articles referring to specific murders and with that you can verify numbers do add up. Here I present the latest figures I have.

Valencia is a municipio that has more than 1 million inhabitants. Different governments have tried to split it into two municipios, but there has been resistance. The North is generally speaking better off and the South is very poor, even if there are some low middle class areas in the South. The military regime has split the municipio only for gerrymandering and completely inconstitutional purposes. Most murders in Carabobo take place in the Southern part but the statistics don't show this, so it is hard for me to prove here how the poorest are by far the more affected. Carabobo's Municipio Libertador, though, is home to mostly poor people. According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, there are about 186222 people living there. In the last 12 months, 254 people have been murdered in Libertador. The murder rate for the last 12 months is thus 136.4 murders. Municipio San Diego is mostly middle class with a couple of slums and its government is led by a rather efficient opposition mayor, Enzo Scarano. The murder rate there is 25.71, still high but among the lowest in Venezuela's urban areas. The murder rate for the whole of Carabobo (July 2009-July 2010) was 89.94 murders per 100,000 persons.

I think I have a fair impression of how crime is in Lara, in Greater Caracas and a couple of other regions, but I do not have the hard facts. All in all, though, the numbers I presented here very much correspond with what is finally coming out from such studies as the ones Miguel is talking about.

The Venezuelan military regime will keep blaming it on the others. Propaganda "journalists" such as Maurice Lemoine, from Monde Diplomatique, will write about conspiracies whereby most of these murders are product of Colombians and right-winged paramilitaries trying to topple the military government of Hugo Chávez.

Murder per municipio in Carabobo

In reality not every parish in Valencia is affected in the same way. Northern Valencia is not as affected as poor Miguel Peña. Most people in San Diego are middle class. Most people in Libertador are poor.