The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a nongovernmental organization, created after the Chavez government stopped publishing murder rates around 2003, is considered to have the most reliable data on crime and violence. When Chavez took office in 1999 there were 4,550 homicides, while last year there were at least 16,000 homicides, the group said.said that in 2009 Venezuela had about 54 homicides for every 100,000 residents.
That is higher than Mexico, with about 12 homicides per 100,000 people. It is also higher than war-torn neighbor Colombia, which logged around 35 killings for every 100,000 residents.
Roberto Briceno, director of the OVV, notes that the murder rate in Venezuela was more less stable for several years preceding the Chavez government, and only began to rise sharply and steadily after Chavez became president. He also points out that in 1998 there were over 5,000 homicide arrests to go along with the 4,550 homicides, while in recent years homicide arrests have fallen to around 1,300 even as homicides skyrocketed.
It\’s especially dangerous in Caracas, where the murder rate is nearly triple the national average, with some 140 homicides per 100,000 people.
Of course, when a newspaper or two published photos of the overflowing morgues, the reaction was to ban newspapers from publishing pictures of overflowing morgues.