Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Crime, crime, everywhere crime 

As has been pointed out on this blog before, mainly in reference to some pretty bad statistics, crime is very much out of control in Venezuela and the government seems to be doing far too little about it. Today rather than give statistics I want to give the accounts of two recent crime events that occurred to people I know well in Barquisimeto Venezuela in just the past few days.

In the first instance a friend was walking along a street in downtown Barquisimeto last week talking on her cell phone when she was attacked, thrown to the ground and had her purse and cell phone snatched away by some thieves. In addition to the property loss she was physically hurt in her arm and leg and was of course very shaken up. Acquaintances of hers told her matter of factly “speaking on a cell phone on the street, what did you expect?” And lest the reader think this is was some fancy slim cell phone that folds up nicely and takes pictures, no it wasn’t. This, like the cell phones many Venezuelans have, is a very old and simple model that no criminal in the U.S. would be caught dead stealing. Yet in the downtown area of one of Venezuela’s major cities you can’t risk using it publicly for fear of being assaulted.

The second incident is far worse. A person was visiting a friend in the Macuto section of Barquisimeto. That is a very poor area on the southern fringe of the city. While he waited outside for his friend to come out he was accosted by a group of criminal who insisted he turn over his motorcycle. Again, suffice it to say this wasn’t a fancy Harley-Davidson. Unwisely, he resisted turning it over and was shot dead. In a disgustingly ironic twist the criminal then couldn’t figure out how to start it and left without the motorcycle.

Both of those incidents occurred in just the past five days. The statistics on crime, as has been pointed out, are indeed deplorable. And when you have to listen to these two tales of crime in the past week it is indeed horrific. Opposition bloggers have noted that so far Chavez has managed to escape blame for this and it seems not to have dented his popularity. That is true up to this point probably because the economy is booming and for most people that is the overriding issue. But this every day horror that is the crime situation in Venezuela can’t go on forever without people getting fed up enough about it that they will vote any politician out for letting it continue. Chavez would do well, and the country would benefit enormously, if he would wake up to that reality sooner rather than later. After all, as others have pointed out, a booming economy doesn’t do much for you when you’re dead.


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