Girish Gupta

HOME

PHOTOS

VENEZUELA ECON

ONLINE

Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
LinkedIn
AngelList
Keybase
GitHub
IFTTT

BY COUNTRY

Afghanistan
Brazil
Colombia
Cuba
Ecuador
Egypt
Guyana
Iraq
Jordan
Lebanon
Mexico
United Kingdom
Venezuela

BY MEDIUM

Text
Photo
Radio
TV/Video

BY PUBLISHER

Al Jazeera
BBC
BuzzFeed
CBC
Christian Science Monitor
CNN
Daily Mail
Data Driven Journalism (EJC)
Datum
Ecologist
Economist Intelligence Unit
Emerging Markets
Financial Times
Foreign Policy
France 24
Fusion
GlobalPost
Guardian
Independent
La Prensa (Panama)
LatinFinance
Mancunion
Monocle
National (Abu Dhabi)
New Internationalist
New Statesman
New York Times
New Yorker
NPR
PBS
PRI
Radio France Internationale
Reuters
RTE
Sky News
Sun
Sunday Times
Telegraph
TIME
Times of London
USA Today
Vice
WLRN

ABOUT

About
CV
Contact (PGP Key)


On Venezuelan police being killed for their weapons
Feb. 15, 2015 — Caracas, Venezuela

Featured on RTÉ World Report



In a grainy video, Venezuelan policeman Álvaro Blanco stands at the counter of a bakery just an hour outside Caracas. The 49-year-old is about to buy breakfast.

As he does so, a teenager moves a few feet behind him and raises a gun to the policeman’s head. Alvaro is unaware that he is about to be shot at point blank range. As he falls backwards, dead, the youngster grabs the policeman’s gun from his holster and flees.

Alvaro had a wife and two sons. They were aged 19 and 10.

That 48-second video, which was filmed early January, went viral recently in Venezuela, one of the world’s most deadly countries. Here, officers are being killed at a rate of roughly one every single day. Often, like Alvaro, for their weapons.

I watched the video on a mobile phone belonging to one of Alvaro’s colleagues in the back of a police car one Friday night. We were driving through Petare, a huge slum in the east of Caracas.

“The fashion now is to kill police officers for our weapons,” Manuel Ángel told me as we drove through the dirt streets. “I’ve seen officers killed. They are my partners, my friends.”

Manuel is 43-years old and has a wife and 10-year-old son. He has worked as a police officer for 19 years. His wife, he says, begs him every day to quit his job.

Policing Caracas’ slums is perhaps one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. And the money does not make up for it. Thanks to the country’s economic problems, the cops earn under the equivalent of less than twenty euros a month.

The government does not regularly give crime figures but local NGOs believe the country has the world’s second highest murder rate, after Honduras.

One of the major problems is impunity. Nationwide, only 8% of crimes are solved.

Even if criminals do end up incarcerated, prisons in Venezuela are severely overcrowded and dangerous. I was inside one a few years ago and saw inmates wielding machine guns, rifles and grenades. Those who enter the prisons will undoubtedly leave hardened to a life of crime.

The dirt streets of Petare, covered in mounds of trash spilling across into rickety houses, are packed with people drinking, taking drugs and fighting. Music blares from giant speakers facing the streets.

Few have hopes or aspirations beyond a life of crime. For just a couple of hundred euros, they can buy a gun like those that are standard issue for the police here.

“Practically every kid here above the age of 13 wants a gun,” Manuel told me. “They love to kill people. This is the culture. To be a thug is what they aim to be.”

And worryingly, the criminals are much better armed than the police.

“We only have pistols to fight these organized gangs,” Manuel said after frisking a group he told me were known to the police for firing across the slum at rival groups in an effort to control drug turf.

“They have rifles, machine guns, grenades — weapons of war. And we just have this pistol!”

The government has launched some 20 anti-crime initiatives since former President Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999. Yet, they have made little difference on the ground.

Officer José Albornóz was driving. He is 30 and has been in the police 12 years. Around a decade ago, he was shot in the leg while on duty.

“I feel like I’m a soldier at war,” he told me. “Every time I put my uniform on, I know I’m in danger”

For World Report, this is Girish Gupta in Caracas, Venezuela

Filed from
Caracas, Venezuela






More...

Advisers urge deep discount in Venezuelan cryptocurrency offering
Jan. 16, 2018


Inflationary math
Dec. 12, 2017


Venezuela money supply up 14 percent in one week, fastest rise on record
Dec. 1, 2017


How a defrocked judge became the chief enforcer for Maduro's Venezuela
Nov. 15, 2017


De cómo un juez destituido se convirtió en el principal artífice judicial del presidente de Venezuela
Nov. 15, 2017


The 'Venezuela Econ' app: Harnessing data to understand a spectacular economic meltdown
Nov. 6, 2017


Venezuela's monthly inflation rises to 34 percent: National Assembly
Sept. 7, 2017


Ousted Venezuelan prosecutor says she fears for her life, will keep fighting
Aug. 10, 2017


Venezuela quells attack on military base, two killed
Aug. 6, 2017


Exclusive: Venezuelan vote data casts doubt on turnout at Sunday poll
Aug. 2, 2017


All eyes on Venezuela military after protests, vote
Aug. 1, 2017


U.S. 'sweetheart' of Venezuela sees worrying signs of authoritarianism
Jul. 29, 2017


Venezuela money supply surges 10 percent in one week, fastest in 25 years
Jul. 29, 2017


Exclusive: At least 123 Venezuelan soldiers detained since protests - documents
Jul. 6, 2017


Venezuela hikes minimum wage 50 percent, effectively down 17 percent
Jul. 2, 2017








© Girish Gupta