It happens every day, as sure as the sun rises over the biggest favela in Latin America in Caracas — death is one of the few guaranteed things you can find in Venezuela.
The government has been able to censor the country’s main newspapers, so you won’t read much about crime in the media. There are no official tallies of deaths related to violence, but some NGOs put last year’s national death toll as high as 24,000, which would make a total of 252,000 deaths since the revolution came to power 17 years ago.
There are an estimated 200,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, but it doesn’t seem like that is enough. Over the past 17 years, there have been at least 23 security initiatives, but violence hasn’t gone down; it has increased. Law enforcement officers work for low wages and with little or no logistical support. The CIPC (forensic police), prosecutors and judges are overwhelmed — they are sometimes faced with as many as 700 cases a month. With numbers this high, criminals often go free and continue to perpetrate crimes because there are no real repercussions for them.
Violence permeates everyday life here. In the streets, gangs clash with one another, with the police and with the army. Sometimes, police even clash among themselves. All of these factions wield power and abuse it. Caught in the middle of all of this, ordinary citizens buy guns to protect themselves. Whether it’s the loss of a friend or a relative, everyone here has been touched by violence. Death is in the air.
Venezuela is a country that seems to be at war with itself. It’s not always clear who is who. It’s hard to know who to trust or who your enemy is, so you’re always looking over your shoulder, waiting for the next blow, unsure of where it will come from. Violence has so saturated life here that people have begun to see it as normal.