An aerial view of Caracas, Venezuela
Aerial view of Caracas, Venezuela Méndez

A reported decline in Venezuela's crime rate might suggest a breakthrough in national security, but it likely results more from shifts within the country's criminal landscape than from effective state interventions, according to an analysis by InSight Crime.

In mid-May, Venezuelan security officials announced a 25.1% drop in crime indicators compared to 2023. The data is similar to that of the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia – OVV), an organization analyzing violence and insecurity across the country.

However, while the government emphasizes the role of the armed forces, other factors may be influencing the decline in crime rates. One of them is the migration of criminal groups, as highlighted in the OVV's latest violence report. Venezuela's ongoing economic crisis has severely impacted both ordinary citizens and criminal organizations, reducing opportunities for extortion and ransom kidnappings.

As the economic situation continues to deteriorate, prominent gangs such as Tren de Aragua, Yeico Masacre, and The Meleán have moved operations to Venezuelan diasporas in other Latin American countries. This migration has led to increased violence and crime in nations like Chile, Colombia, and Peru, where these gangs have capitalized on the vulnerabilities of migrants and the lack of regional cooperation among authorities.

Another factor is the monopolization of violence by certain non-state armed groups, which has created a deceptive sense of security in some regions. The OVV report suggests that pacts between the government and criminal groups, as well as the consolidation of territorial control by these groups, contribute to perceived improvements in security.

For example, the National Liberation Army (ELN), a Colombian guerrilla group, has established a monopoly on extortion in Venezuela's Apure state after receiving preferential treatment from the Maduro government, the outlet explained. While this may give an impression of increased safety, locals remain subject to strict social rules, illegal taxes, and movement restrictions, with severe punishments for non-compliance.

The data is also notably inconsistent. Venezuelan authorities have not published official data on national and regional security, including statistics on homicides, extortion, and kidnappings, since 2015.

Media outlets and NGOs, such as the OVV, have taken on the responsibility of collecting and disseminating this information. However, those not aligning with the government's perspective face potential persecution, with non-state media closures and journalist harassment being common.

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