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Why is the crime rate so high in Venezuela?

ILikeLogic          20 March 2016 03:08 PM

I recently became interested in crime and what causes it and I looked up the countries with the highest crime rates. At the top is Venezuela. I hunted around for an explanation but there doesn't seem to be a consensus. One article blamed socialism but it was really a pro-capitalist anti-socialist essay. Another commonly offered explanation was corruption. I'm of the belief that crime has many causes, one of which is genetics. A study of the Venezuelan population showed that their DNA is 60.6% European, 23% indigenous and 16.3% African. That doesn't seem to explain much. If the answer is corruption and a completely ineffectual police force that just raises the question of why there is so much corruption and why the police force is so ineffectual.

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melian 21 March 2016 09:19 AM

This is an interesting question, but there may be no simple answer to it.

If one looks at the world crime map, demographics seem an obvious suspect. Most countries with a similar demographic composition have a homicide rate way above the world average. However, there is an exception (Chile) which suggests that there are additional factors at play.

One of the most important factors which determine the crime rate is the people’s sense of community. In places where people view their fellow citizen as enemies or competitors for some limited resource anti-social behaviors flourish and people make little effort to suppress them. A number of events in Chile and Venezuela’s history may have resulted in Chileans having a greater sense of community:

1) The biggest conflicts in Chilean history have been between Chile and its neighbors (such as the War of the Pacific). Few things unite people as effectively as a common enemy. By contrast, Venezuelans mainly fought each other in civil wars (the Federal War (1859-1863) alone claimed lives of hundreds of thousands in a country with a population of just over a million people.)

2) In general, different socioeconomic classes have two ways to increase their material prosperity: (1) try to get a bigger share of a pie (which leads them into a conflict with other classes); (2) try to make the whole pie bigger. The discovery of huge oil deposits turned Venezuela into an extractive economy where the size of the “pie” is largely fixed by the global oil prices. Consequently, there is a stronger stimulus for social strife.

3) During the 1970s, while experiencing an oil-export boom, Venezuela received millions of immigrants from Ecuador, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.

4) Chile may have been simply lucky with its last dictator. Traditionally, Latin American autocrats built their powerbase by (1) fanning the antagonism between different social and ethnic groups; (2) buying the support of the army, the police and the government officials by allowing them to abuse their privileges and enrich themselves through corruption. Unlike Chavez, Pinochet used both options very sparingly. Ultimately, this cost him his position but allowed Chile to emerge from his rule with a much improved economy and relatively low corruption.


aliad 5 April 2016 10:45 PM

I suspect that socialism, or at least this particular implementation of socialism, is part of the answer. For many years there have been two exchange rates. The first was the official, legal exchange rate that the government would arrange for a few favored companies to get. The second was the "real" or "street" that was the black market price for exchanging currency if you didn't have the pull to go through the government. The fact that all these western journalist seemed to know and agree what the street rate was and that it represented the real, natural rate of exchange indicates that the black market is very large and involves most parts of the economy. My impression is that there is also a lot of black market activity around subsidized and rationed goods.

The first rule of command is 'Never give an order you know will not be obeyed.' Here in the US we do have some rules, like speed limits, were certain hypes of violation are very wide spread. But in cases where people are await they are violating regulations there is an a restricted way the laws are enforced and for most people getting a ticket is not devastating.* But in Venezuela, while black market activities might be necessary to live a normal life, and while officials might sometime look away for the right price, the activity was also a serious crime against the state ideology. There is a serious possibility you might be made a political example and not only have their live ruined but possibly there family's too. Therefore people engaging in black market transactions (i.e. most people) will be very aware hey are acting against the government and will be willing to put a lot of effort into getting away with it. They will practice hiding their activities and make connections in the criminal underworld. And for most people, one they are in a 'getting away with it' mind-set, their resistance to other criminal activities is much lower. I can see this leading to higher criminally amount people living in a regulatory climate that not practical to obey and was being enforced very unevenly.

* There is a class of people how are living so close to the bone that a traffic ticket can be devastating. For them also the possibility of getting a ticket for normal and necessary actives is corrosive. It tends to make them feel threatened by the police and alienated. It can lead to a build p of anger that can contribute to counter productive or even criminal behavior.


VoiceOfRa 21 March 2016 04:44 PM

One article blamed socialism

This is basically the the explanation. Specifically Venezuela's socialist system recently ran out of money, hence it can't afford to properly maintain order. This is the same reason crime spiked in the former Soviet Union after it's collapse.

I'm of the belief that crime has many causes, one of which is genetics.

This is one of the causes, but obviously it's not a cause of crime spikes, unless mass migrations are involved. And the current crime rate in Venezuela is way above the country's recent historical average.