In 1999 a newly elected government in Venezuela sought to break records with its daring plans for creating a socialist paradise. Economically that was a huge failure but it did achieve some record breaking results. One of the least savory records was a soaring murder rate. Currently there are 90 murders per 100,000 population in Venezuela and that has become a major cause of popular discontent. When the government assigns a lot of police to monitor political opponents rather than criminals it is noticed. While the state controlled mass media won’t discuss this issue the news gets around anyway, especially via the Internet. The government blames the murders, and crime in general on foreign (especially Colombia and the United States) and domestic (opposition parties) enemies. But the real cause is the economic policies that tolerated corruption (at least among government officials) and punished privately held businesses (and eventually shut most of them down). With the economy no longer functioning and corruption diverting a huge portion of oil revenue, most Venezuelans eventually found themselves unemployed, hungry and beset by a growing number of their fellow Venezuelans who turned to crime to get by. That created a growing murder rate, especially in the cities.
The Venezuelan capital (Caracas) has become the murder capital of the world with 130 murders per year per 100,000 population. Of the ten cities in the world with the worst rates four are in Venezuela (ranging from 72 to 84). All ten cities are in Latin America, with number two being Acapulco Mexico with 113 per 100,000, mostly because of drug gangs. In Venezuela the reasons are mainly economic and political.
While the current Venezuelan murder rate is exceptional by global standards it is part of a larger trend. In short, Central America and South America have long had very high murder rates (currently 5-12 times higher than in the United States). Some cities were much worse. The murder rate of Caracas, the capital and largest city in Venezuela is five times the 24 per 100,000 rate in the capital of neighboring Colombia. This makes Caracas more violent than the worst hit (by drug gang violence) Mexican border city (Ciudad Juárez) where the murder rate has been nearly as large but has since declined. The national rate for Venezuela grew as the economic problems got worse. Since 2013 (when the oil price began dropping) the rate has increased more than 30 percent. By way of comparison the murder rate in Venezuela is nearly twenty times the rate in the U.S. The Western hemisphere in general has an average rate of about 8 per 100,000 people a year. That in turn is much higher than in Europe, where it is about 3-4. Middle Eastern nations have rates of between 5 and 10 per 100,000. The leftist government is more corrupt than its predecessors and that has led to a proliferation of criminal gangs who find that they can kill at will because the police are either too scared or too well-bribed to interfere. The leftist government has, since 2000, launched more than twenty “anti-crime” campaigns and none of them worked. The criminals prospered and the voters remembered. In 2016 a lot more prominent government supporters are getting murdered. These are usually retired officials, who no longer have their government supplied bodyguards. That sort of thing reminds well protected government officials that no one is safe from the growing crime wave.
By the end of 2016 the government stopped releasing inflation and murder rate statistics but there were other ways to collect data and these show that 2017 will be another record breaking year.