The way the police behave towards citizens also reflects the way the state treats the inhabitants of a country. In Venezuela, such behavior is characterized by inefficiency and abuse. In 2019, the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV, December 27, 2019) recorded 5200 deaths at the hands of the police, and it found that many police officers were involved in extortion and corruption activities (Ávila et al., 2019). In 2019, out of 5200 cases of extortion and kidnapping, 559 police officers were investigated. Police institutions are still characterized by illegality and lack of transparency. The Venezuelan police are widely known to citizens for engaging in various illegal activities, especially extrajudicial executions. Between 2015 and 2017, more than 12,000 deaths were committed by police institutions (OVV, December 27, 2019). According to Laura Louza, director of the NGO Access to Justice, the police are an upside-down body: they act as a repressive body to guarantee the stability of the current government under the impetus of a free hand for corruption. This briefing note summarizes the conclusions of the chapter “Security of Citizens in Venezuela” of the book “Comunidad Venezuela. An agenda of research and local action”, created by Roberto Patiño. The book is a compilation of documents based on research conducted by various authors and virtual dialogues that took place between July and September 2020.
This initiative was coordinated by the Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Latin America (CODS) at the University of Los Andes, Bogotá, and the Center for International Development Research (IDRC). The fundamental solution to the immense problem of citizen insecurity in Venezuela would be to rebuild its institutions so that they can restore citizens` trust and thus be able to promote the policy of violence prevention. This will probably require some form of political consultation. Based on an action research agenda, we can begin to evaluate violence prevention measures in other Latin American countries with a similar context to Venezuela in order to show a viable path for institution-building. For her part, Verónica Zubillaga, associate professor at the Simón Bolívar University of Caracas, proposes to examine the future research program in two dimensions. On the one hand, it invites us to take into account the major historical trends that allow us to understand the expressions associated with local identities or configurations in terms of security. On the other hand, it is proposed to understand local subjectivities and practices in order to determine how communities are strengthened by collective strategies to deal with violence in their regions. In this context, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the police, the army and the judiciary have been implicated in human rights violations and, in most cases, have become a problem rather than a solution. According to the Víctimas Monitor Observatory (2019), in Caracas alone, 38% of violent deaths were committed by security forces. In addition, according to the Latin American Lethal Force Monitor, Venezuela is the Latin American country with the highest police case fatality rate (Foro Penal, 2020).
In Venezuela, violence is a widespread phenomenon. In particular, the murder rate in the country is among the highest in the world. In 2019, the estimated murder rate was 60.3 per 100,000 population (Insight Crime, 2019). Homicides are concentrated in some urban “hot spots”: about half of homicides occur in only 20% of municipalities (García et al., 2020). However, in recent years, criminal activity has also increased significantly in rural areas close to borders where illegal economies thrive. For example, the murder rate in communities in border states was between two and four times higher than the national average, according to the latest official report in 2016. From a historical point of view, the policy of security of citizens implemented in Venezuela over the past twenty years has been characterized by the absence of prevention strategies and the absence of a transparent and effective judicial system committed to reducing impunity and professionalizing the state security forces. The growing problem of violence is neglected and, when the State acts, is often characterized by excessive use of violence against the most vulnerable communities. So far, the public sector has not implemented coherent measures to implement evidence-based programmes and prevent crime (Rosas & Herrera-Núñes, 2018).
In addition, there is little strictly collected data on the behaviour of violence in the country. Moreover, in this sense, there is no way to know how these institutions fail and thus develop coherent solutions.