David Smilde has a great post on the ways in which crime in Venezuela is becoming more organized. In particular:
[W]e are seeing more massacres in which numbers of people in or near criminal groups are savagely murdered. This type of spectacular violence has the purpose of intimidating and demonstrating the dominance of the network of perpetrators over the network of victims. This type of violence is typical of battles between criminal networks, but also in the consolidation of a networks hegemony over a specific territory or market.He notes that there are several factors at work simultaneously. The state is weakened, especially because police salaries cannot keep up with prices and so must be supplemented illegally. In response the state is militarizing crime, which has bred mercenaries. As the economy collapses, violent illegal activity surges.
The paradox is that the state is both large and weak. It just is incapable of functioning well. As a result, organized groups (sometimes sponsored by the state itself) move into the vacuum and use violence to consolidate their positions.
Of course, there is no clear answer to all this.
Violence is most likely to occur when the question “who’s in charge?” does not have a clear response, or when the existing social equilibrium is unstable and can easily be challenged.
And those questions will not be answered quickly.