May 22, 2016

Venezuela has high crime rate and economic collapse - kidnappers demand payment in dollars

The tumbling value of Venezuela's national currency, the bolivar, has compelled kidnap groups to change their modus operandi, reported Sumarium. Relatives and associates of kidnap victims told Sumarium their captors had demanded between $7,000 and $10,000 in ransom.

An unidentified police official explained kidnappers only start demanding bolivars after the ransom sum passes the $10,000 threshold.

"The family members of the captives collect their savings in dollars or euros when the ransom does not surpass $10,000," the official said. "When they ask for more, the kidnappers agree to negotiate in bolivars."

Bribes to military officials are made in euros in order to obtain weapons inside the prison facility.

There is a projected 500 percent inflation rate in 2016 and the value of the US dollar quadrupling over the past year on the black market currency exchange.

Kidnapping is and has been a major criminal industry in Venezuela. Kidnappings in Caracas happen primarily during the nighttime hours but are not uncommon during the day. The government officially does not track total kidnappings, but it is believed that kidnapping cases remained constant during 2015, as with the year prior. Criminologists continue to report that 80+ percent of kidnappings go unreported in fear of retaliation by kidnappers, and are both “express kidnappings” and traditional kidnappings for ransom.

A majority of kidnappings are identified as “express kidnappings” which usually last less than 48 hours (sometimes as short as two hours). Changes in law and banking practices have restricted ATM daily withdrawal amounts. In recent years, it has become more common for kidnappers to drive their victims around for several hours, disorienting the victim and giving the victim’s family and friend’s time to gather a ransom payment

It was once thought that these violent crimes only occurred in “poor” neighborhoods, but in 2015 even relatively affluent residential Caracas neighborhoods in Chacao, Baruta, and El Hatillo (where many government leaders, professionals, businesspeople, and foreign diplomats reside) saw regular incidents of kidnapping, home invasion, and armed robbery. U.S. Embassy employees are often victims of armed robberies and carjacking.

After homicide, the crimes of greatest concern in Caracas are kidnapping and robbery (carjacking, street robbery, home invasion). Kidnappings and robberies often become homicides, as victims who resist are routinely killed.

Robberies, particularly street robberies, are known to occur throughout Caracas and at any time. Armed criminals target pedestrians (standing or walking along the side of a road) and motorists (parked or stopped in traffic) alike.

Carjackings remain a serious concern. According to the Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace, approximately 100 cars were stolen per day nationwide in 2015. Caracas accounts for 40-45 percent of the total number of complaints that occurred nationwide.

The capital Caracas has now been ranked as the most murderous city on Earth, according to a new study by Mexican think-tank the Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice.

The report calculates that Caracas’s 3,946 homicides in 2015 gave it a truly terrifying annual homicide rate of 120 per 100,000 residents.

The United States — easily the most murderous of Western developed nations — has a rate of 4.7, according to the United Nations’ most recent comparative study of national homicide levels, from 2013. Australia, Japan, New Zealand and most of Western Europe had one murder per 100,000 residents.

Latin America confirmed its statistical reputation as the world’s most violent region; 41 of the 50 cities in the homicide report are in Latin America.

There were between 18000 and 27875 murders in Venezuela in 2015. The lower 18000 figure is from the Venezuela attorney general. The higher figure from a think tank. The government figure is low as it is trying to undercount the situation.

“The attorney general is simply lying,” Rafael Narváez, a criminal defense and human rights lawyer, said. He estimated that the official figures have left out almost 10,000 murders. He said he was relying on private figures collected by networks of people who count bodies at the morgue.

San Pedro Sula’s murder rate was 111 per 100,000, putting it at No. 2 in 2015, while the third ranked city was San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, with 109. Worryingly for tourists, the Mexican beach town of Acapulco came in fourth, with 105, although the victims are overwhelmingly locals rather than visitors.

Twenty-one of the 50 most murderous cities were in Brazil, while eight were in Venezuela, five in Mexico, three in Colombia and two in Honduras. Another four of the cities on the list are in South Africa.

From 1999-2012, Venezuela was considered a socialist paradise under President Hugo Chavez. Chavez used the oil wealth to fund socialist policies.

Now black market shoppers stand for hours in the blistering heat, motivated not by hunger, but profit.

Half-empty shelves in most shops means goods bought at government-controlled prices can be sold at a significant mark-up.

Instead of working jobs for 1,500 bolivars a day to clean a house, it is now more profitable to line up to buy scarce produces and resell them.

It wasn’t always this way. Diego Moya-Ocampos, senior political risk analyst at IHS, says the current crisis is the result of years of “economic mismanagement” by the ruling socialist party.

“There is a saying in Venezuela, “Delincuentes andan con el moño suelto.” It translates: “Venezuela is a country where criminals can really let their hair down.”

Many middle class Venezuelans, admits paying bachaqueros for goods. They contact people on Whatsapp when they need to buy milk.

In April 2015 a family could buy fruit and vegetables for about 430 bolivars. Now the same items cost me 14,000 bolivars.

SOURCES - USA Today, Miami Herald, Insight Crime, OSAC, Telegraph UK

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