Understanding the Violence Phenomenon in Venezuela

There’s no doubt violence is one of the biggest challenges for the Venezuelan society nowadays. Though the country may not be the world’s most violent nation in the world, the insecurity levels have reached almost unbearable levels for regular citizens both in large cities and country side. But what are the roots for such a phenomenon? Should we just take with us simplistic explanations provided by the media?

The following are key explanations provided by Venezuelan journalist Victor Hugo Majano. But Majano’s explanations are not opinions, the several times quoted by President Maduro in his speeches claims all of these explanations may be proven empirically, though they are presented in plain terms.

For Majano, violence in Venezuela has a simple purpose: perpetuating the control mechanisms of the aristocracy upon the society beyond common explanations like “common crime” or “political violence” aimed at overthrowing the Bolivarian Revolution.

1.- Privatization of Security Services: Paramilitary in Venezuela is rooted in the process of privatization of violence traditionally reserved to the state. Three main factors are identified as the causes of privatization. The first is the neoliberal logic of shaping a weaker state; the second is the need to provide protection to illegal and paralegal activities from criminals and “entrepreneurs” from different branches like night clubs, drug and weapons trafficking, black markets of foreign currencies, among others; and the third is the absolute lost of control of the State’s violence apparatus from the bourgeoisie as a consequence of the triumph of the Bolivarian Revolution, and the lack of freedom to use the army and police forces as means  to protect the interests of landlords and big business.

2.- Security as a “Trade”: The privatization of security services and the proliferation of local police forces created this huge mass  of workers specialized in the use of force: bodyguards, police officers, watchmen, and doormen. But because these jobs often have a high turnover rate, and are very informal, the phenomenon of an “industrial reserve army” was created. So there’s this huge army of unemployed but highly capable professionals ready to perform any “security task” required by the any bidder.

 3.- Organized Crime: Under this scenario, it was not difficult for many of these workers to create organizations dedicated to provider either protection services or violence services for the crime industry. It became just as likely they would escort a truck loaded with legitimate merchandise, the newly created workforce would also escort a truck full of drugs. They would provide security for a concert, but also for a nightclub where drugs would run freely. And worse: just as they would investigate a crime, they would also obtain information of victims for possible extortions and kidnapping.

4.- Crime, art, and culture: Language, music and visual codes were maximized in order to promote these lifestyles. In a highly stratified society, each social class represented itself in this paramilitary fantasy: just as there’s paramilitary elements that openly generate violence in the slums, the middle class, also has its representatives esthetically identified with “airsoft” practice and the fantasy of killing “chaviztas” or army officers from the top of their apartments.

5.- Paramilitary vs common crime? It’s become a common mistake to establish a difference between common crime and paramilitary forces. The Colombian experience and the facts in Venezuela say the contrary. Crime in Venezuela is of no other consequence than the action of paramilitary forces. The high levels of organizations, the techniques and ferocity of the attacks, the weapons of use and the business models are very similar to what Colombians now call “Bacrim” (Ciminal Bands). Another element is the control of territories as a way of reshaping local political power.

6.-Paramilitary vs The People: Victor Hugo claims the criminal organizations have now included in their “service brochure” the capacity to execute aggressive actions against the civilian population at the requirement of businesses and local landlords. This way, it’s become frequent to see criminal organizations threatening and harassing anyone that opposes a particular business that may disturb the life quality of the community. Crime organizations have expelled farmers and peasants from occupied lands, and have murdered workers from workers’ union who are in direct conflict with patrons. Just recently workers from Alimentos Polar (Venezuela’s mega empire of food production and distribution) denounced that “organized crime” has been hired by the mega-corporation to intimidate leaders of the workers’ union.

7.- Large Estates and the Paramilitary: the process of slowly receiving the paramilitary groups from Colombia into Venezuela started as a proposal from landlords located in the Venezuelan-Colombian border who wanted to protect their immensely large estates from peasant’s demand for arable land. Achieving that goal required hiring specialized personnel trained in dismantling peasants’ organizations by the means of violence. Another factor is the use of lands for illegal activities like contraband in general or drug trafficking. Each of these activities require the hiring of personnel handed over by criminal organizations.

8.- Paramilitary and Commerce: the paramilitary has been introduced to the commercial sector in at least three different ways. One way is by accessing to the extraction contraband such as gasoline and food. The second one is through investments in the real estate and construction sectors that would allow the legalization of capital. The third one, of course, is the creation of organized groups that would provide “security” services and immediate response in case of emergencies.

9.- The ideology behind the paramilitary: The paramilitary possesses mechanisms that allows it to slowly be accepted in a community. One of those mechanisms, according to Majano is to serve as regulators of individual behavior of the members of the community where the paramilitary operates. This includes watching over kids and adolescents to either stop them from or encourage them to consume drugs. They also send death threats to whoever might be unfaithful on their marriage and in that way and several other ways they earn the respect and protection from the community.

10.- Arms trafficking and Paramilitary: Illegal arms trade is one of the industries controlled in Venezuela by the paramilitary. It’s been a decade since the first alarm was given about weapons exportation from the US to Venezuela. The transaction is often made with the rifles dismantled but rebuilt once they enter Venezuelan territory by specialized.

Esta traducción fue realizada por los compañeros del portal web Hoy Venezuela

Aquí está la nota original en español

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