Venezuela Announces Gun Control Plan to Lower Crime

Venezuela Minister of the Interior and Justice, Jesse Chacon, announced the creation of a new firearms control plan on Thursday, which will be presented to President Chavez in two weeks, and could begin to be implemented by the end of July.

Caracas, Venezuela, July 2, 2006–The Venezuelan Ministry of Justice announced the creation of a new firearms control plan on Wednesday, in an attempt to decrease excessive violence in Venezuela. The plan will be presented to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in two weeks, and could begin to be implemented by the end of July.

The National Weapons Control Plan was announced by the Minister of Justice and Interior, Jesse Chacon, who proclaimed it to be an important piece of the larger security policies that the Ministry of Interior and Justice has been developing.

“We are going to get the ball rolling on this disarmament plan in order to take all of those [weapons] that are found to be illegal out of circulation and this will be presented in two weeks to the President of the Republic, Hugo Chavez, for consideration for its implementation.” Announced Chacon. “By the end of July, we expect to be able to count on a complete registry of the whole range of weapons that are out there, as much in the security organizations as well as in the hands of the civilian population.”

According to Minister Chacon, the plan has two strategic goals: disarmament and weapons control. Under disarmament, the plan is to destroy all of the excess, legal or illegal, weapons in the country, whether captured or turned in voluntarily. The weapons control plan attempts to bring about the registration of all of Venezuela’s weapons.

“The disarmament is in order to take out of circulation that quantity of illegal guns that are now found in Venezuela and to implement mechanisms in order to bring about not just the registration of the weaponry that is found in Venezuela, but also the use of it,” announced Chacon.

In order to achieve these goals, Venezuela is proposing 5 projects and 29 programs, which will be further hashed out over the next two weeks.

“The five projects that we are going to present in order to begin the execution [of the plan] consist in establishing a permanent monitoring mechanism regarding the entrance of weaponry to Venezuela and find the way to carry out the following: a consciousness-raising campaign for the population, so that they turn in their weapons voluntarily; the promotion of updated legislation that establishes dispositions on the control of firearms; promote the participation of the community in the disarmament programs; and coordinate different actions with key players focused on this issue,” announced Chacon.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the weapon’s plan attempts to combat three major problems: The massive entrance of weaponry into Venezuela during 2000-2002, due to the situation of the country; the high level of violence in Venezuela (even though the level of homicides in Venezuela dropped in 2005); the high level of violence in Latin America produced as a result of the circulation of illegal and legal firearms.

The basis for the plan originated during a serious of meetings on June 6-8, in Caracas, attended by Amnesty International, the Ministry of Justice, local officials and various international experts. According to the Ministry of Justice, the group discussed an “education campaign, control mechanisms, focuses of operations, accelerated processes for the destruction of confiscated weapons, and operations for voluntary exchange with incentives for their control.”

Minister Chacon announced on Wednesday that according to official statistics there are 6 million weapons circulating in Venezuela and that as a consequence of the political situation in Venezuela and the conflict from 2000- 2002, a huge amount of weapons entered the country without control.

According to official statistics, in the past three years there have been 11,643 (2003), 9,719 (2004), and 9,412 (2005) homicides, which is high, considering that Venezuela has a population of 27 Million people. The murder rate in Venezuela in 2005 was six times higher than in the United States.

As reported by the daily El Universal, and according to Commissioner Fermín Mármol León, criminologist and ex-director of Venezuela’s Technical Judicial Police (PTJ), 98% of the homicides in Venezuela are as a result of the use of firearms. Mármol believes that the proposed plan is completely viable, “just as long as it is well organized, planned, and fulfills each one of the points that the proposed in the press conference.”

But Mármol also raised some important critiques. “It is important to add that there is no doubt that delinquents are not going to be included in the plan, nor are they going to voluntarily turn in their weapon,” Mármol said, a situation which some fear could facilitate the work of delinquents, because it will be easier to assault their victims because they will not be armed.

Meanwhile, according to the Ultimas Noticias, due to violence in Venezuela’s jails, which some claim to be the highest in the continent, a number of Venezuelan NGOs are pushing for a specific disarmament and anti-violence plan for Venezuela’s jail system.

Chacon announced that they would install metal detectors in the penitentiaries and that they are planning the construction of four more centers over the next 4 or 5 years. Six inmates in a Carabobo-state jail were killed during violence last Monday.