Venezuelan Government Launches New Crime-Fighting Mission

The Venezuelan government has launched a new mission aimed at combating Venezuela’s problem with citizen insecurity and crime – considered a critical issue by the majority of Venezuelans who often cite crime as one of their primary concerns in polls. 

By Rachael Boothroyd - Venezuelanalysis.com

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The PNB will be expanded into seven new states (Patriagrande)
The PNB will be expanded into seven new states (Patriagrande)
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Liverpool, June 22nd 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has launched a new mission aimed at combating Venezuela’s problem with citizen insecurity and crime – considered a critical issue by the majority of Venezuelans who often cite crime as one of their primary concerns in polls.

Launched by President Chavez on Wednesday, Mission “Venezuela, full of life” will involve expanding the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) service into seven new states, including Lara, Carabobo, Miranda and Zulia, as well as increasing crime prevention measures in conjunction with communities.

Created in 2009, the Bolivarian police is founded on a new model of policing, with recruits working directly with communities and receiving classes on human rights and the military dictatorships which afflicted the Southern American continent in the 1970s and 1980s. Until now, the new police force has only been implemented in Caracas and its surrounding areas, where it has reportedly decreased the crime rate by 57%.

According to Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs, Tareck El-Aissami, the new mission is centred around a policy of prevention, the creation of new values, addressing social exclusion and rehabilitation.

“Between 60% and 70% of crimes are committed by youths. The preventative focus of the mission is to reduce the risks of what we call the production of delinquents, of young people who unfortunately end up being the authors of criminal acts... This mission is a qualitative jump, one more effort in a series of measures and political strategies...to guarantee life and peace for Venezuelans,” commented Aissami.

The announcement of the new mission joins a host of other government initiatives aimed at addressing Venezuela’s crime problem, including a project last year to transform and “humanise” the nation’s prisons through the creation of a new ministry, currently being headed by leftist activist and attorney, Iris Varela. Earlier this week the government also gave the go ahead to reform the country’s penal code in order to combat impunity and hold-ups in the justice system, as well as to provide the legal framework for community service to be given for less serious crimes instead of a prison sentence.

According to Chavez, “Venezuela, full of life” will be based on 6 pillars, including; increasing crime prevention and cooperation in communities, strengthening national security services, transforming the country’s existing judicial system, reforming the nation’s prisons, creating a nation-wide “victim support” service and increasing citizen awareness.

He also stated that the government will create “alternative mechanisms” for conflict resolution in order to ease the current burden on the nation’s judiciary, as well as services aimed at addressing social exclusion as one of the causes of crime. Some of the government’s initiatives include opening more musical centres through the music programme El Sistema, as well as audiovisual training foundations and 790 new sports centres.

“There are already 40 Sistema music centres in place and we are about to complete the others; there is also the launch of Mision Ribas Joven, as well as a census on young boys and girls who are outside of the school system, who we are going to look for and reintegrate. We also have the knowledge and work mission, where we will give preference to young people, in order to give them holistic training,” said Aissami.

The initial stage of the new mission will focus on the 79 municipalities in the country with the highest crime index, with a budget of over 5 billion bolivars (US$ 1.16 billion) having been set aside for the first year.

Deep roots

Announcing the new mission on Wednesday, President Chavez said that Venezuela’s problem with crime had deep roots in the country’s experience with neo-liberalism, and criticised the country’s previous “reactionary” judicial system which criminalised “poverty and race”.

“Violence in the streets doubled during the decade of the 80’s, compared to the 70’s and during the 90’s it tripled and quadrupled,” said the president. “

He also went on to criticise conservative media moguls allied with the opposition, who he said had used the problem of crime in Venezuela as a political tool to “cruelly and inhumanely” manipulate the population.

“They will no doubt criticise this [new mission]... but that just shows what kind of people they are,” said Chavez.

The political opposition to Chavez has been critical of the government for supposedly ignoring the issue of crime in Venezuela and being too “soft” on violent crime. However, the government maintains that the opposition has a “reactionary” stance to the issue, pointing out that some of the most dangerous municipalities in Venezuela, such as Miranda and Zulia, are under the administration of opposition governors.

Announcing the mission on Wednesday, however, President Chavez said that the government could not just rely on prevention alone in order to solve the issue of crime.

“This is a problem which takes into account various factors, from which you can analyse, address and confront the problem in order to search for solutions,” he said.

“We can see that in the ten countries with the highest homicide rate, eight of them are in Latin America, and Venezuela is the fifth. This shows us that, from a humanist analysis, in Venezuela the social missions alone are not sufficient for reducing the levels of violent crime,” he concluded.  

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