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Column 011314 Brewer

Monday, January 13, 2014

Crime and the Systemic Failures of Government in Venezuela

By Jerry Brewer

Why must a personal tragedy, such as the murder of former beauty queen and Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her husband -- last week in Venezuela, bring such an intense public outrage worldwide, with a weak leftist President Nicolas Maduro racing to silence the publicity?

Although these recent killings in Venezuela entail a well-known celebrity, the mother of a young daughter that survived the shootings, this particular attack sadly shadows the many thousands of murders that preceded this particular mayhem.

Venezuela is, and remains, one of the most violent nations in the world.  In a country where the political apparatchik falsely claims that crime is falling, killings "rose to 24,763 last year," leaving the country with one of the world's highest homicide rates (according to the non-governmental group Venezuelan Violence Observatory).

In stark comparison, the United States, with a population ten times that of Venezuela has about 14,000 homicides a year.

Of course the murder of a high profiled figure is headline news and, as expected, Venezuelans are putting extreme pressure on the socialist regime as a wake-up call and to at least act now on the homeland's escalating violent crime rate.

Clearly in a knee-jerk reaction, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said at a security meeting he convened with mayors and governors last week, "It's terrible that this happened, and society has to react. It is not time to faint, to throw in the towel, to let our guard down. To the contrary, it's time to react."

Maduro is the successor of past President Hugo Chavez's dictatorial-like regime that was in power for slightly over a decade.  Hugo Chavez alone probably inflicted more lasting structural damage on Venezuela's political institutions, economy and people than any other president in Venezuelan history. He took control of economic matters, weakened the legislature and judiciary, and tightened the grip by the military. There was rampant and systematic corruption, and mismanagement outside of transparency, especially with the state run oil company PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela) that suffered billions of dollars in oil revenue losses.

President Maduro has tried desperately to fit into the vacant yet tattered shoes of the late Chavez.  However, he should look clearly and rationally at that façade which has run its course, and continues to bring desperate times to the once proud Venezuelan homeland.

Maduro, 50, who previously worked as a Caracas bus driver and union activist, appeared to Chavez to be the answer to replace him in death. And common sense appeared to prevail somewhat when the Venezuelan people allegedly gave him a razor thin 1.5 point victory in the special presidential election on April 14, 2013. That race remains hotly debated due to outcries of corruption.

It is true that poverty is an issue in much of the crime in Venezuela, where many of the poor were often placated and misled by Hugo Chavez -- who frequently paraded as a martyr for the poor during campaign and election times.  Chavez routinely touted his devotion to the poor with his Bolivarian Revolution, and he spoke of a mass movement to implement popular democracy, economic independence, an equitable distribution of revenues, and an end to political corruption.

Still, after his death and under Maduro the poor continue to live below the poverty line, in squalor and unsafe homes, with little food and rolling blackouts of electricity, among other issues -- that even include toilet paper shortages. 

Venezuelans have had ample time to reflect and digest the failures of socialist rule under Hugo Chavez and now Maduro.  It is clear that the economy continues to fail, crime and violence continue to soar, and Maduro, as did Chavez, continues to tout his admiration, allegiance and support to Castro's Cuba where the failures of a tired communist regime have decimated the country for decades.

Even in death a vast world media negatively exploited the Chavez legacy, describing a systematically corrupt administration that squandered billions of dollars of Venezuelan revenues, much of it still unaccounted for. Chavez's death brought the world media to question the acquired wealth of the past president and his family over his 14 year Socialist rule, especially since Venezuela had not been seeing the benefits of its once vast oil wealth and revenues.

Hugo Chavez consistently and verbally attacked the U.S. In terminating all cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Venezuela became a primary and expanding drug transshipment hub.  A retired lieutenant colonel, who served in Venezuela's military, Jesus Gonzalez Cazorla, has described Cuba and Venezuela as part of a "new cold war in which Cuba controls Venezuela, and is directed by Cuban intelligence and other officials. Venezuela is directed by the Cubans, by the Castro brothers, and they have a policy that the drugs that go to the States are something that will destroy the United States that (is) the main enemy of Cubans."

Brashly, at a conference Maduro held last week to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, he called for Puerto Rico to "take the path of Latin America" in declaring itself independent from the United States. Much like Hugo Chavez, Maduro will be judged by his own actions and historical record.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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