Venezuela: Fighting Urban Violence

Over the last decades, urban violence has been one of the most important issues in Latin American societies. There are several types of urban violence and the reasons why it happens depends on every country's historic and social processes. Nonetheless, it is clear that economic inequality in the migration from farms to the city [es] in the mid-20th century has been the main scene for violence and crime in Latin American cities. Due to the economic crisis in the 1980s, this problem became worse in Venezuela and its cities.

Nowadays, urban violence makes Venezuelans reflect and debate on social networks. Over the last years, with a prison crisis and violent deaths increasing, one more issue is added to the discussions against and in favor of the government. Additionally, next year's presidential election has sparked new discussions on this topic. Candidate's proposals intend to offer various types of solutions. Nevertheless, for the pessimists, it is necessary to carry out strict measures no matter the consequences.

The government's most recent answer to violence [es] was a nationwide deployment of a branch of the National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela [es], known as the People's Guard. The measure has raised interest, concern and skepticism among netizens. Reflections on this measure have opened up a discussion about a reality that affects rich and poor in Venezuela; an issue all Venezuelans have in common, regardless of political positions.

Police raid in a poor neighborhood in Caracas,  December 2009 by Miguel Gutierrez, copyright Demotix.

Police raid in a poor neighborhood in Caracas, December 2009 by Miguel Gutierrez, copyright Demotix.

Naky discusses this issue [es] with a story about a traffic accident:

Vivimos en el inmenso engaño de creer, que si estamos más atentos, si cambiamos nuestras rutas para no llegar ni salir siempre por el mismo sitio, si nos acoplamos a la luz del día -bastante corta en estas tardes de invierno-; si vamos en grupo, si no usamos prendas lujosas, ni reloj, ni celular, ni un corotico para escuchar música, seremos presas menos apetecibles y nuestra vulnerabilidad se reduce. (…) Perdimos. Perdimos todos. La civilidad luce como un lujo inconquistable. El desamparo es una sensación atroz cuando sabes que te asiste la razón.

We wrongly believe that, if we stay more alert, if we change our routes home to avoid arriving or leaving from the same place, if we do our activities during the daylight – which does not last long in these winter afternoons; if we go out in groups, if we don't use expensive clothing, watches, cell phones, or headphones to listen to music, we will be a less attractive prey and therefore less vulnerable. (…) We've lost. Everyone has lost. Civilization looks like an unaffordable luxury. Helplessness is a horrible feeling when you know reason is on your side.

In the blog Venezuela y su Historia [es], Profeballa criticizes some candidates’ proposals and provides more convincing answers:

[El candidato presidencial no puede] reducir su propuesta a combatir la inseguridad solo con la educación, porque mientras esto se va implementando, los asesinos siguen matando. Hay que reprimir, aunque nos asuste la palabra.

A presidential candidate cannot just focus on education to fight crime, because while this is being implemented, murderers are still killing people. Although we are scared of this word, repression has to be used.

At the same time, in its blog [es], a lock company points out one of the most serious consequences of increased armed crime:

Anteriormente el venezolano se destacaba por poseer una alta calidez humana que lo hacía capaz de ayudar a todo el mundo y tratar a las personas que recién conocía como hermanos muy queridos.  (…) Sin embargo, el nivel de inseguridad lo ha llevado a convertirse en una persona incrédula y desconfiada (…) Ya no permite ser abordado por un desconocido en la vía pública; al manejar en carretera ya no le ofrece la cola a desconocidos; si ve un herido en la vía sigue de largo; y teme circular en la madrugada o en altas horas de la noche.

Before, Venezuelans stood out as kind people with a warmth that made them capable of helping anyone and considering people they just met as their beloved brothers. (…) Nevertheless, the level of insecurity has led them to become skeptical and suspicious (…) They do not let strangers talk to them in public; they do not give people a ride when driving in a highway; if they see an injured person in the road, they do not stop to help; and they are afraid of being out at midnight or late at night.

On Twitter, while some users spread the word on the new armed forces deployment, others share their opinions on this measure. They assert the work of these forces will not change the current situation:

Elides J Rojas L (@ejrl) [es] comments on how the government fails to fight crime:

Chávez dice que su gobierno está “batallando” contra la inseguridad / Y está perdiendo 9 a 0

Chavez affirms that his government is “fighting” insecurity / And he is losing 9-0.

Eudoro J. Boudewyn (@Boudewyn) [es] questions the success of the security force:

Miebtras [sic] la Guardia del Pueblo cerraba licorerias, el hampa asesino a 68 venezolanos.

While the people's guard was closing liquor stores, criminals murdered 68 Venezuelans.

@InformadorVeraz [es] cruelly affirms:

Setenta y dos homicidios en Caracas el fin de semana más violento del año ¿y la Guardia del Pueblo la solución del GOLPISTA @chavezcandanga?

Seventy two murders in Caracas, the most violent weekend of the year. Where is the People's Guard, the coup supporter @chavezcandanga‘s solution?

Finally, Ramon Morales, in his blog El Ultimátum Hiperbóreo [es], analyses some of the causes and tries to expand the arguments of those who claim the government is the main culprit. In his post, he shares his ideas regarding some of the main causes that drive a vicious cycle of violence; he also argues that it is unlikely that measures in response to violence will be successful if causes are not faced first:

Me sorprende que esos súperdotados para criticar no se han dado cuenta de la relación que hay entre los valores capitalistas y la inseguridad en la calle. (…) ¿Por qué un ser humano es capaz de matar a otro ser humano para quitarle un par de zapatos o un teléfono celular? Materialismo. (…) Creciendo en una sociedad que te enseña que lo más importante es el dinero, la ropa de marca y las posesiones costosas, es completamente predecible que un gran número de sujetos, que no tienen acceso a una educación de valores humanistas, lleguen al comportamiento precriminal en el cual sienten que un objeto o el dinero tienen más valor que la vida de otro sujeto (…) aunque en Venezuela se refuercen los cuerpos de seguridad, aunque los militares salgan a la calle a proteger a los ciudadanos, mientras el materialismo sea uno de nuestros valores y el alcohol nuestro compañero de todos los fines de semana, las cifras de muertes violentas seguirán siendo elevadas.

I am surprised that people gifted to criticize have not realized the link between capitalist values and insecurity out on the streets. (…) Why is a human being capable of murdering another to steal a pair of shoes or a cell phone? Materialism (…) Growing up in a society that teaches you that the most important thing is money, designer clothes and expensive things, it is completely predictable that a considerable number of people who don't have access to an education of human values start to think that an object or money is more valuable than someone's life (…) Even if security is being reinforced in Venezuela, even if armed forces are on the streets protecting citizens, if materialism is one of our values and alcoholic drinks are our partners every weekend, the death toll will still be high.

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