Fear, pain, desperation—there is no time for dreams, learning, or mistakes. Venezuela's youth of the 21st century fall dead in the streets, caught in the midst of an asymmetric war pitting crime against the citizenry. It's proved to be a crisis that's too much for the state.
The leading cause of death for young men between the ages of 10 and 19 in Venezuela is homicide, according to the UNICEF study “Hidden in Plain Sight”, which the newspaper El Universal describes as the largest compilation of data on physical, sexual, and psychological violence against children and youth to date.
According to press reports, more than 90 children have been murdered in the capital city, Caracas, since the beginning of the year. That's a figure comparable to two full school buses, ten baseball teams, or an entire symphony orchestra.
— El Universal (@ElUniversal) May 20, 2015
98 minors have been murdered from the start of 2015 in Caracas
The Youth Orchestras System of Venezuela, created during a period of democracy (in 1975) and known as the pride of the nation, as well as the starting point for the renowned orchestra conductor Gustavo Dudamel, was struck just last week with the murder of two of its members: Jimbert Hernández (15 years old) in Caracas, and Carlos Hernández (13) in Cantaura, in the east of the country. Both crimes were committed in broad daylight.
Lamentamos profundamente la pérdida de 2 de nuestros niños. Seguimos trabajando para que la paz prevalezca sobre la violencia
— El Sistema (@elsistema) May 13, 2015
We deeply regret the loss of 2 of our children. We will keep working so that peace can prevail over violence.
Venezuelan youth are also the victims of bullets fired by troops from the state security forces. According to a study conducted by Cecodap, a Venezuelan NGO that works to promote and defend the human rights of children and adolescents, of the 912 children and adolescents killed in the past year, 126 were murdered by police and military officers.
informa @cecodap en 2014, 912 niños y adolescentes murieron a causa de la violencia.912 familias destrozadas.26 Salones de Clase suprimidos
— Deanna Albano (@Almis47) May 18, 2015
@cecodap informs that in 2014, 912 children and youth died in violence. 912 families broken. 26 classrooms less.
Last February, the country was shaken by the death of 14-year-old student Kluiverth Roa. A police officer shot him in the face, in broad daylight, in San Cristóbal, a city in the west of the country near the border with Colombia. It was an act that citizens learned about from video shot on a cell phone, which spread its way across social networks.
On the night of April 30, Julio Méndez was gunned down in a “confrontation” with police. The 21-year-old was accused of being part of a criminal gang, yet there are reasons to doubt the police's claims: Méndez acted in the film “Pelo Malo”, which won an award at the San Sebastián Film Festival in 2013, and he was also a recognized athlete who had participated in national youth competitions. In addition, according to friends and family, he was in the process of making arrangements to emigrate from the country.
With infinite rage and pain, we must report that our beloved actor JULIO MENDEZ was murdered in Caracas.
The majority of Venezuelan youth are in search of a way to leave their country of origin and set up a life for themselves in other nations. Among those that stay, many fight against the government and suffer repression in response to their protests, while others are jailed and, in turn, made out to be criminals by the state-controlled mass media.
During last year's protests, 3,718 people were arrested, including 360 minors, according to the Foro Penal Venezolano, a local human rights NGO.
Venezuela currently has the world's highest rate of inflation, at 76 percent according to official figures (though other organizations and economists believe that it could well exceed 100 percent this year). The country is also suffering from worst food shortages ever seen in its history, and it has the second-highest murder rate in the world (82 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants), surpassed only by Honduras.
Athletes, students, the rich, the poor, peasants, city dwellers, believers, and non-believers—Venezuela's youth seem to live under the constant specter of violence, while the state does little to address this tragedy that is shaking the country. Without decisive action, more and more Venezuelan youngsters will find it impossible to have a future.