Friday, December 28, 2018

Even Criminals Emigrate From Venezuela?

The murder rate in Venezuela has apparently dropped.
The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) said in its annual report that Venezuela still had the world’s highest murder rate, 81.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, but it noted that figure was down from 89 in 2017 and 92 the year before. Director Roberto Briceño attributed the drop in part to migration. 
“The majority of the Venezuelans who emigrate are honest people who have been forced to look for work elsewhere, but many criminals are among them,” he told reporters, citing press reports on crimes in other South American countries.
Their website does not seem to have the report up, so I don't know what evidence they present, but I feel skeptical. This is an argument I do not think I have ever heard. Gangs thrive in places like Venezuela, so why would they leave? Even if some did leave, we would expect other gangs to fill the vacuum.

Two other possibilities merit thinking about.

First, this is just a blip. The data is going to be messy in the first place and will involve estimations because the government does not want anyone to know how bad things are. How big an actual difference is there between 81.4 and 89 per 100,000 given the error involved?

Second, it could be a change of tactic versus emigration. For whatever reason, gangs have chosen to use methods other than murder to get what they want. The report hints at this:
The number of robberies of farmers and food distribution trucks increased in 2018, according to the report, a sign of growing desperation and hunger as inflation topped 1 million percent. 
Maybe attacking food distribution trucks requires less killing than other kinds of crimes.

The answer matters. Xenophobes in other countries are looking for reasons to block Venezuelan migrants. A report like this gives them ammunition. You cannot make such arguments lightly or you can give a real and very negative impact on people's lives.

Update (12/30/18) The Venezuelan government says it is all lies. Violence in Venezuela is down across the board. To say otherwise is to be a pawn of the fascist right, the United States, the Colombian mafia, and all other enemies of the glorious revolution!


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