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Venezuelan murder rate four times higher than Mexico

The Americas Post - Protesters send a clear message in Caracas against skyrocketing murder rates

According to the Venezuela Violence Observatory, over 19,336 people have been killed there so far in 2011, averaging 53 per day.

Those figures would make Venezuela’s murder rate the highest in South America, and four times worse than that of Mexico.  Violent crime is already considered a major issue in elections next year, when President Hugo Chavez is seeks another term in office.

“We must inform the nation that 2011 will end as the the most violent year in the nation’s history,” the Venezuela Violence Observatory (OVV) said in their news release.

The numbers – compiled from research by several Venezuelan universities – suggest a murder rate of 67 per 100,000 inhabitants during 2011.  That compares to 32 per 100,000 last year next door in Colombia and 14 per 100,000 in Mexico, two countries suffering from intense drug-related violence.

The Venezuelan government admits problems with violent crime, but claims the figures are lower.  Earlier this year, Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami told Congress the murder rate was 48 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The OVV said that violent crime has been going up in Venezuela since 1999, when President Chavez took office. That year just 4,550 murders were recorded.

The group did not state the reason for the rising violence, but noted that the vast majority of killings go unpunished.  A high level of gun ownership also plays a role.

Other crimes such as robbery and kidnapping have also been on the rise along with the murder rate.

In November, President Chavez announced the creation of a new armed force – the People’s Guard – to promote public security.  Thousands of soldiers were deployed on the streets of Caracas and other regions to support police where crime levels are high.

Several other Latin American countries have murder rates far higher than the global average of 6.9 per 100,000 people.

The highest rate during 2010 was in Honduras, which had 82 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.