Mérida, November 12th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- As part of its efforts to fight crime, the Venezuelan government publicly destroyed more than 32,000 firearms on Wednesday, according to the head of the Armed Forces General Board of Arms and Explosives, Colonel Julio César Morales.
Workers in an iron factory in Lara state used blow torches to chop the weapons into scrap metal. Nearly $5,000 in proceeds from the sale of the scrap metal will be donated to the Friends of Children with Cancer Foundation, Morales said.
The weapons were seized from people arrested for violent crimes and also from prisoners this year. Nearly a third of the weapons were homemade, and the rest were produced industrially.
Minister for Justice and Internal Affairs Tarek El-Aissami attended the arms destruction ceremony and said, “This act forms part of the disarmament policies that we have been promoting.”
In polls, Venezuelans have repeatedly placed crime and insecurity as the most serious issue affecting the country. According to government figures, the number of homicides rose from 5,974 in 1999 to nearly 13,000 in 2007, then declined to fewer than 8,000 last year, in a national population of approximately 28 million.
In addition to confiscating and destroying weapons, the government has increased the number of police officers and renovated their equipment, begun training unarmed community police squads, and laid the groundwork for a network of local drug prevention educator schools.
In 2006, the government began its police reform program with a nation-wide, public consultation process and the formation of a national commission to write new standards for police conduct. Two years later, the National Assembly passed a law creating a new national police force, and this year the Justice and Internal Affairs Ministry set up a new university for training in police conduct.