Merida, 9th January 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has pledged to improve domestic security by improving police conditions and establishing a new institution to provide aid to victims of crime.
The announcement came following an emergency meeting between President Nicolas Maduro, state governors and the mayors of the 79 most crime-ridden municipalities.
“This is an issue of the highest order. Here we are doing all we can... to advance society toward new values,” Maduro stated during Wednesday's meeting.
The president proposed a new stage of the Safe Homeland Plan to address violent crime, which could be implemented next month. Maduro said that Vice-President Jorge Arreaza and interior minister Miguel Rodriguez will compile proposals to be included in the national plan by touring the country in the coming weeks. Once the plan is formulated, Maduro said he will use his decree powers to pass the measures into law.
Rodriguez stated the government would “use everything we have, the police, the army, against those who will not go down the path of peace”.
“The fight against violence has to involve all the authorities, so the criminals know they'll face the full rigor of the law,” he stated.
“We've had enough already,” Rodriguez said. He confirmed this afternoon that he intends to begin touring the country to speak with mayors and governors about crime prevention strategies as early as next week.
Maduro proposed improving police training, wages and living conditions, and he approved Bs 10.7 million in extra funding for Venezuela's 79 most crime-ridden municipalities. He stated that the funds should be used by mayors and state governors to improve police services.
At the state level, the largest recipient of the one-off funding was Zulia, which will receive a payment of Bs 909,000. Zulia is Venezuela's most populous state. The second highest payment will go to Miranda state, which is governed by Maduro's former rival for presidency, Henrique Capriles.
Capriles' state will be handed Bs 729 million. The lowest amount was approved for Vargas, which will receive Bs 176,000.
Maduro also announced the creation of the National Institute for the Care of Victims of Criminal Violence. The president stated that “experts” would be employed to provide “humane” assistance to victims of crime, though he didn't provide any further details.
“We must build a country of peace and coexistence,” Maduro stated.
The government's pledge to improve security has received the support of Capriles, who has maintained accusations that Maduro won the presidency by fraud since last April.
“Nicolas Maduro, I suggest we put aside our deep differences and get together to fight the lack of security, as one bloc,” Capriles tweeted.
Capriles himself attended yesterday's meeting, and shook hands with Maduro.
“I'm in Miraflores. I'll go anywhere for the sake of Venezuela's security. There's a national outcry to stop the violence,” he stated in another tweet.
Maduro had previously stated that he wouldn't allow anyone into Miraflores Palace who refused to recognise his presidency.
The Spear Killing
Yesterday's meeting was called by the government following the murder of former Miss Venezuela winner and actress Monica Spear, and her British ex-husband Thomas Henry Berry. The two were shot on Monday night while travelling from Merida to Caracas.
Venezuelan investigative police chief Jose Gregorio Sierralta has stated that their vehicle was stopped outside Puerto Cabello after they hit an object that had been “placed” on the road. According to Sierralta, authorities suspect the attack occurred after their vehicle had been lifted onto a tow truck. Their daughter Maya was also injured, though she is reportedly in a stable condition in a Caracas medical clinic.
Seven people have already been detained by Venezuelan authorities in connection to the killings, including two adolescents.
The minister for internal affairs condemned the incident on Monday as “vile”, while Maduro has described the murders as a “slap to all” Venezuelans, and earlier today he told the press that the incident was an attempted robbery.
“Now there are seven people under arrest, two are minors, the motive was robbery,” Rodriguez stated.
Despite Capriles' call for cooperation, other members of Venezuela's political opposition have hit out at the Maduro administration this week.
“The government is directly responsible for Monica Spear's death,” opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado has stated.
Machado – who once said she supported the 2002 coup d'état by accident – claimed the government has been “destroying the judicial system and police bodies”.
However, the president has urged against using the killings for political fodder.
“Time and again, people have used this subject [domestic security] for political manipulation,” he stated.
“It's a very small minority that doesn't realise this is a national problem, a serious problem that became endemic 40 to 50 years ago,” Maduro said.
Hundreds of supporters and fans of Ms Spear including other actors rallied in Caracas on Wednesday, calling for the government to improve domestic security.
Policing currently remains mostly in the hands of the states, though the Maduro government has pushed for greater national standardisation of Venezuela's various police forces. The government has also reported reductions in crime in Caracas, where the Bolivarian National Police operate.
In recent years Venezuela has seen some of the highest rates of violent crime in the region.
The Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV) says that 25,000 murders took place in Venezuela in 2013, or 79 for every 100,000 Venezuelans; up from their estimate of 21,000 in 2012.
The government has long disputed the OVV's figures. Rodriguez recently put the 2013 homicide rate at 39 per 100,000 Venezuelans.
In 2011, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that Venezuela's homicide rate was 45.1 per 100,000 in 2010.