Friday, April 07, 2006

Caracas, C.S.I. of a sick country

The murder of the Faddoul brothers has been something particularly harrowing. By this, one does not want to diminish the horror of the death of their faithful driver of 10 years whose family, probably suspected for a brief time during investigation, saw the name of their loved Miguel Rivas fully redeemed through his very own ignominious death. (1)

Nor do we want to forget about Sindoni whom a reader suggested that the speedy murder and physical abuse was due that a GPS implant existed and someone at the police tipped the raptors on what was supposedly a secret (I certainly cannot prove that but I report it as it does make a lot of sense to explain what happened then).

Nor does one want to forget the dozens of people in Tachira, Zulia and Merida who are the hostages of a rather prosperous ransom industry. And those who died in their hands.

But there are other crimes that cannot be forgotten: the soldiers of Fort Mara for example, the students killed at the Kennedy neighborhood last June by “security forces”.

Or the harrowing plain light assassination last Wednesday of photographer Jorge Aguirre, duly noted in the strongest terms by the Interamerican Press Association, SIP.

All of these have something in common: all have security forces suspected in the actions, and not necessarily to rescue the victims.

But let’s look at what might matter most: the main victims of insecurity in Venezuela are people living in the barrios and they are probably the ones that trust the least the Venezuelan police. If crime for ransom has gone up several fold in the past decade, Venezuela’s crime rate has tripled since Chavez came to office, and this with a government that has tried the most “innovative” ways to improve unfavorable statistics. If in fancy neighborhoods of Caracas gated communities are becoming the norm, if we now have a curfew, let’s not think about what is happening up in the “barrios” that surround the city where people must resort to home grown initiatives or permanent hide and seek to preserve their main income. And their lives. (2)

It is difficult to explain this situation to a foreign audience. Indeed, the statistics can be shown, the bloody headlines can be recalled and link. But the essence remains elusive unless you live here, suffer this psychologically damaging onslaught daily. Perhaps it would be more useful to list a summary of a few facts, not necessarily in order of importance:

Hugo Chavez has been in office for now seven years. He is claiming that under his tenure poverty has gone down. Some people disagree. Crime rate is going up three folds. The reader will draw his/her own conclusions.

In the last two years Hugo Chavez has been preparing the country for an “asymmetrical” war against the US of A. Meanwhile he is losing the war against crime. In his own soil, in his own capital, with his own people, with all the money he can dream of.

For seven years Chavez has been consistently uttering a violent language, has been framing everything political in an imaginary of battles of redemption and revenge. If you are not with me you are my enemy, you betray the fatherland, you deserve punishment.

Since 2002 the invasion waves on private property have increased, violent ones gone unpunished while only too often the unfortunate owner is presented as the true criminal. The government all but openly supporting such invasions. Victims, sometime of violent death, including the invaders in rural areas such as Zulia, remain forgotten.

The penal system is a shambles, from the killing fields that have become the Venezuelan jails to a judicial so overworked, so incompetent, so partial that violent criminals get back to the streets in a matter of weeks.

Those who get to court, if they are perceived from the government side get an endless trial that pretty much ensures them permanent freedom whereas those perceived to be against the regime get either a speedy trial (Uson, the Tachira folks) or do not get a trial at al and rot in jail or must flee the country (Simonovis, Forero, Poleo). Why would some one committing a crime in the name of the revolution or the people worry about the consequences of his actions?

And those who try to report on many of these misdeeds are simply threatened by Chavez himself during his long monologues where no one is allowed to contradict him, demand him an explanation. Perorations where Chavez lowers himself to insult the journalist that dares to ask a real question. How many journalists have been aggressed in Venezuela? Killed even? Why should fanatic chavista not execute the all but expressed in direct words wish of Chavez to silence the press?

And more examples of degradation from the top, that after 7 years render the excuse of “we inherited this from previous administrations” ludicrous and downright cowardly.

This is “apocalypse now”.

And what is the government doing? Nothing, in spite of the horror.

More hot air at the National Assembly who has been speedy in passing repressive measures on politics but is still overdue for a comprehensive social security package. It also debates an interminable debate on creating a National Police or bringing the armed forces more into the fray. Never asking the true question: who will hire and form the National Police? The same bozos that have been in charge of security this past 7 years? Or even 20 years if you want to spread the blame?

Local authorities are often led by mayors with a dubious past such as Bernal or Barreto in Caracas, people unable to pick up the trash or to run a local dispensary to treat the crime wounds.

Chavista media was slow in reporting and even slower in facing the problem. In Venezuelaanalysis a certain Fox did write a decent article but could not help himself and wrote at the end: “Venezuela has one of the highest crime rates in the world, which has held relatively steady throughout the Chavez presidency” blowing the article with that final lie. Aporrea is busy trying to minimize the event, or reporting the words of Varela or Isaias as to all coming from Colombia (without showing the ever promised evidence). Even Dan Burnett has a few words but prefers to focus on the countless murders that lower classes suffer, resulting in a strange impression of moral ambiguity on a crime that by any standards, any social class, violates all human decency and should not be diminished for the risk of moral bankruptcy it carries.

But of course, the main agent remains the executive branch of government.

In any semi functional country where in barely 10 days we had 3 kids, their driver, an important businessman, a regular journalists doing his work murdered in high profile cases, the Minister in charge would have tended his resignation. Not here. Jesse “James” Chacon keeps talking, the only thing he seems to be able to do against crime.

In fact, Jesse dares to demand that we do not politicize the Faddoul crime, when it is chavismo that has politicizes everything in Venezuela, placing everywhere incompetent, corrupt, careless, cynical bureaucrats whose only credential is their devotion to the regime. Look for example the cynical chiming in of Lara, the new communication minister, bent on blocking the transmission of the news under pretext of protecting the youth or who knows what. Globovision was the target there, receiving a memo on stopping to cover the Faddoul crime because they were exacerbating the mood fo the country. Typical “shoot the messenger”, seen from ALL chavistas, including those that used to haunt this space. But Globovision was undaunted and replied in a daring editorial. We will see if chavismo, once gain caught in flagrant incompetence and moral corruption, will dare cross the final line and pretend that all has become rosy in Venezuela by shutting criticism and only allowing sycophancy to rule the airs, the way it already does in the media it controls.

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1) El Universal has just posted on the net a series of English translations that are linked through the main article here.

2) Tal Cual published the following numbers today: 2,678 people assasinated through guns for the FIRST QUARTER of 2006. And in the past 5 years 6,127 people have died in actions involving "security" forces. The Faddoul brothers and their driver are only 4, even though the horrific aspect of it underlines their death moment. The reader can imagine easily that there are few families in Venezuela that do not know of at least a neighbor´s family which has been hit by violence in the past years. The UNESCO reports that Venezuela has become the highest ranking country in weapon deaths, overtaking long time record holder Brazil.

Since Hugo Chavez has become president, 65,875 Venezuelans have died of weapon wounds (compare with Iraq numbers) and 329 000 have been injured through gun fire or knife inflicted wounds.

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