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CARACAS, Saturday September 15, 2012 | Update
 
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SECURITY | Interview with Luis Bravo Dávila, criminology professor

"Venezuela has the fourth highest homicide rate worldwide"

"The statistics point out a 74% rate of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants" "This great leap in the homicide rate is consistent with the establishment of the current political model"

Luis Bravo Dávila highlights a match between dictatorial regimes and high rates of violence and homicides (Photo: Roberto Giusti)
ROBERTO GIUSTI |  EL UNIVERSAL
Saturday September 15, 2012  12:00 AM
Under the auspices of the International Centre of Compared Criminology, Venezuelan researcher Luis Bravo (Professor at the Criminal Science Institute, Central University of Venezuela, UCV), took part in a line of research on homicides worldwide.  The comparative and multidisciplinary study offers information on this matter from very different countries, such as Venezuela, Japan, Morocco, or Tanzania.  The findings concerning Venezuela confirm a bloody reality, beyond the statistics.  "According to data released by the United Nations (UN) in late 2011, Venezuela has one of highest homicide rates in South America, exceeded only by El Salvador and Honduras."

Venezuela's (murder) rate is higher than that of African countries?

With the exception of Ivory Coast, the murder rate in any other African countries is lower than that in Venezuela.  Neighboring Colombia was the most violent country in Latin America until in the early 2000's.  Then the figures dropped and now we (Venezuela) are far ahead, not only of Colombia, but also of Chile (3.7 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants) and even Haiti (6.9).

What is our place worldwide?

I would dare say that we are in the top five.  These figures change annually and sometimes there are differences among sources.  Currently (2011-2012) Venezuela is among the top four or five countries were homicide is a serious social issue.

Comparatively, Venezuela could not be worse

The analysis I have made between 1958 and 2010 breaks down in a first stage that goes until the 1980's, where the variation tended to a low and irregular increase.  However, in the 1990's, a change was recorded and the variation went from a rate of 10 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants to 17 homicides, by end of the decade.  Then, from year 2000 the numbers have rocketed up.

What would be the reason for that boom?

Demographic changes, industrialization, almost disappearance of the country areas, the development of big urban poor areas.  Also, the traditional risk factors: poverty, unemployment, and social inequality.  Nonetheless, the latter element has greater influence than poverty.  For example, in Haiti, a much poorer country than Venezuela, the murder rate is less than seven homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, whereas Venezuela recorded over 74.5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009, according to the National Poll on Victimization and Perception of Citizen Insecurity, carried out by the National Institute of Statistics (government agency) and the Andes University.

You mentioned common causes of violence.  Are there any factors inherent in Venezuela's reality?

The fact that there is a match between the great leap in homicide rates and the establishment of a political model that fancies itself as radically different and intends to reform the social framework makes any researcher hypothesize on it.

Which hypothesis?

I have the idea (confirmed by studies) that in democratic governments, there are low homicide rates because there is law and order, separation of powers, accountability, and citizen criticism.

In Venezuela, dictatorship (the government of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez) is often associated with security.  Nowadays there is a high level of impunity.

Those regimes develop apparent legitimate mechanisms that are not legitimate in the practice, such as police corruption and impunity by the judges.  According to the Victimization Poll, 92% thinks that information aired in the media does not have influence on violence, but the government remarks otherwise.  The ostrich buries its head in the sand while social violence rockets and the homicide issue hits more than 150,000 families.

Translated by Andreína Trujillo
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Living with HIV/AIDS (II)

At first she agreed that I use her real name, that she had no problems with that at all. After all, living with HIV had driven her to help others – as a workshop facilitator giving talks and conducting seminars, or as a volunteer for local AIDS Service Organizations like Acción Solidaria (Solidary Action) and Mujeres Unidas por la Salud (Women United for Health, or Musa), a support group network for HIV-positive women. But when we were well into the interview, the realization that she might lose her private health insurance coverage made her change her mind.

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