Venezuela, under the socialist regime of President Nicolás Maduro, boasts the second highest murder rate in the world, and tensions in that country fueled by the military’s violence against unarmed protesters threaten to worsen the situation as the nation is on track to register over 14,000 murders by the end of the year.
According to Infobae, law enforcement statistics obtained by Venezuelan newspaper El Universal show that 4,680 individuals have been killed in 2014 so far, which amounts to 39 violent deaths a day and 17 killings for every 100,000 residents. Should the trend continue, Venezuela will end 2014 with 14,040 killings–which would represent a 30% decrease from 2013. The paper notes, however, that the government controls these statistics and many violent deaths, particularly of young protesters at the hands of government-affiliated guerrillas, go unreported.
The violence has been especially difficult for members of the press. El Nacional reports that the National Association of Journalists in Venezuela has on record 190 reported attacks against members of the press in 2014, 24 of which are known to have been attacked by mobile Chavista guerrilla groups. “The impunity and indifference of the Maduro government are the responses we have received to the majority of charges presented,” the group said in a press release. It is the policy of the government, they continued, to “silence the free press as part of their war on knowledge, the development of citizenship, and information.”
The group also notes that news stations run or subsidized by the government remain silent on the violations against journalists. Many of these leaders live extravagantly, as a report by América TeVe showed last week from Miami, where the head of government-owned Globovision owns a mansion and keeps luxury yachts.
Forty-one people have died since protests escalated in February, when Popular Will opposition party leader Leopoldo López was arrested on charges of arson and inciting violence. Most of these have been young, college-aged protesters who have demanded changes in the regime and a return to democratic ways after Maduro won reelection in a vote international observers deemed fraudulent. The government’s response to the wave of protests has been to send the Bolivarian National Guard to beat protesters, conduct mass arrests, and torture and even rape them while detained in jail.
Those who have condemned the Maduro regime have been punished for their courage. María Corina Machado, a congresswoman who has traveled the world demanding international intervention in Venezuela, was ousted from Congress and attacked with tear gas for attempting to return to her office. More than 30 soldiers–three of them generals–and two opposition mayors have been arrested for anti-government activities in addition to López, as well. Maduro has accused many in the military of a wide-ranging conspiracy to stage a coup against him.