EspañolVenezuelans feel less safe than citizens of any other county in the world, according to Gallup’s 2013 Law and order Index. Latin America, for its part, ranks the worst in the world in terms of public confidence in law enforcement, sense of public safety, and burglary rates.
The Gallup poll scores countries on a scale from 0 to 100, with 0 being the lowest level of perceived security. Venezuela scored a 41, the lowest security score in the world, while Latin America earned a score of 56. These scores demonstrate the dramatic level of insecurity that persists in this region of the world.
The study, however, did show a slight improvement for the region since 2009, when Latin America scored 2 points lower on the scale at 54. Nevertheless, eight of the 10 countries in the world with the highest homicide rates (murders per 100,000 people) are located in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Based on UN figures from 2012, 36 percent of all homicides worldwide occur in Latin America, replacing Africa as the most murderous region on the planet. The increase has been attributed to the growth in organized crime.
The study was conducted by telephone phone or in person, with the participant providing “yes” or “no” responses to following three questions:
- In the city or area where you live, do you have confidence in the local police force?
- Do you feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where you live?
- Within the last 12 months, have you had money or property stolen from you or another household member?
“Venezuela’s score of 41 is the worst, not only in the region, but in the world. In 2013, only 19 percent of Venezuelans said they felt safe walking alone on the streets in the city where they live,” the study reports.
Only 26 percent of Venezuelans expressed confidence in law enforcement, and 22 percent said that in the last 12 months they, or someone in their home, had been the victim of a robbery.
According the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the reason for the rise in perceived insecurity in Venezuela, and the corresponding increases in the homicide and burglary rates, rests with the country’s faltering economy and political crisis.
“In 2012, Venezuela had the second highest homicide rate in the world after Honduras, with 53.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants,” according to Gallup, based on UN figures.
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However, Roberto Briceño León, director of the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, believes these figures are actually understated.
“We believe they are, in reality, much higher. Our estimates, and the data we have — and even based on official sources — tell us that [in 2012] Venezuela had a homicide rate of 67 murders per 100,000 residents”, Briceño told Nuevo Herald.
Government Fails to Curb Crime
Since former president Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela in 1999, a number of unique measures have been put in place to combat crime.
The latest plan, called Patria Segura, was implemented by President Nicolás Maduro in an effort to reduce crime rates through a civil-military partnership.
In 1998, the homicide rate in Venezuela was 18 per 100,000 people. In 2001, that figure jumped to 32 per 100,000. Twelve years later, the homicide rate climbed to 79, according to a report by the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV).
Nicaragua’s Surprising Results
After Venezuela, residents of Bolivia (47 points), Peru (48 points), Paraguay (52 points), and the Dominican Republic (53 points) also perceived high levels of insecurity in their countries. Of these nations, only Bolivia and the Dominican Republic improved their citizens’ confidence in law and order since 2009.
On the other side of the index, Nicaraguans were found to have the most confidence in their country’s security, followed by the citizens of Panama, Chile, Ecuador, and Uruguay.
Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, told the international news agency EFE that Chile’s success in this regard is due to the nation’s respect for its institutions: “Strong institutions and a high human development index contribute to residents’ perception of security, and confidence in government.”
Argentina improved 3 points since 2009, with a score of 56. Mexico climbed 6 points to 59, while Brazil only improved a single point to reach the same level as Honduras at 56.
As a point of reference, countries that are currently mired in armed conflicts, such as Syria and Iraq, obtained scores of 48 and 67, respectively.
Shifter explained the case of Nicaragua by saying, “Local authorities are highly respected for their ability to maintain order.” The country leading the region’s perceived security index is one of the poorest countries in the world, and according to the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Liberty, also largely lacking in economic freedom.
Nicaragua has a GDP of US$5.9 billion, GDP per capita of $3,206, an annual inflation rate of 8.1 percent, and an unemployment rate of 8 percent – up 4.7 percent from the previous year.