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Venezuela Violent Crime - Travel Alert
Venezuela is a violent place - there were an average of 52 murders A DAY in the first half of 2012 according to police figures.
With 9,510 murders to June 30th 2012, the country is on track for a homicide rate of an alarming 68 per 100,000 people. In comparison Mexico's homicide rate is 18 per 100,000, the USA is 4.8 per 100,000 and Australia is 1.1 per 100,000.
Caracas - Crime Central
In the same period the murder rate in Caracas rose an astonishing 72% on the previous year with 1,934 killings. The Venezuelan government has acknowledged the problem and has instituted a program to reduce street violence by creating jobs and education opportunities for youth and tightening gun control.
But according to insightcrime.org, another contributing factor is the Caracas-based armed groups or colectivos, aligned with the government. The collectives run parts of Caracas as 'micro-states' according to Venezuela's Metropolitan Observatory on Citizen Security. Last year the most violent municipality in the country was Libertador, Caracas which is home to the greatest concentration of colectivos, in the "neighbourhood" Enero 23.
Insightcrime.org reports there are fears the crime rate will rise following the October presidential election. Incumbent Hugo Chavez is battling for re-election, but his defeat could spark a crisis, with elements of the government refusing to stand down and the collectives moving in to the power vacuum.
Areas To Avoid
Many foreign government have stern warnings for their citizens and list the places best avoided. The advice from the Australian government's smartraveller site is typical:
If possible, you should avoid city streets in central Caracas and the Sabana Grande area. There are increasing levels of crime in poorer areas of Caracas, in Cumana, Maracaibo, Paraguana, Valencia, and on the islands of Los Testigos. The Avila National Park is a known target area for criminals. You should also avoid walking or driving in isolated areas, especially at night.
Crime rates are higher in 'barrios' or 'ranchitos' (slum areas) after dark. Tourist and resort areas may be targeted by criminal groups.
There has been an increase in reported incidents of violent crime on Margarita Island (Isla de Margarita). Hotels and tourist areas have been targeted. Travellers are advised to take extra security precautions on the island.
The road between the Maiquetia Simon Bolivar airport and Caracas is dangerous. The road should be avoided at night, particularly between the hours of 2300 and 0400 when there are fewer vehicles on the road. Incidents of muggings and kidnappings by criminals posing as taxi operators at the airport have recently been reported. Foreigners, including Australians, have been attacked and robbed. Licensed, radio-despatched taxis can be organised in advance by hotels or by telephone at the airport. You should avoid sharing taxis with strangers. If possible, travellers are advised to arrive in or leave Caracas during the day and to organise transport to the city through their hotel before they arrive at the airport.
There has been a recent increase in incidents of 'express kidnappings', where people are forced to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release. Victims have been killed or injured while resisting perpetrators' demands.
If you decide to travel to Venezuela it would be advisable to go with an organised tour, use the service of a professional guide, or meet up with relatives or friends - anyone who has good local knowledge of the place. If you decide to travel under your own steam, use extreme care.
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