I think it’s time to talk about more serious things. Todays topic – the security in Venezuela.
And we will start with a video from “The New York Times”:
Before coming to Venezuela I was told by several people that the country is dangerous. However, you cannot really tell how dangerous it is until you actually stay here for a little while and see it by your own eyes. Luckily enough, I haven’t been robbed, stabbed, shot, kidnapped or harmed in any other way YET. But it is impossible to get rid of the feeling of insecurity… And for those who think that I’m exaggerating.. well, I’m not. The only difference between me and the local Venezuelan people is that they get/got used to this kind of situation which gets worse and worse by every year. And the precautions they take every day have already become a normal and usual habit. The simplest rules are:
- Avoid walking on the streets alone.
- If you walk during the day, avoid small streets.
- Don’t even think of taking public transport in the evening.
- Don’t even think of walking on the streets in the evening or at night.
- While in a car, always lock the door… and many more.
Now, some stories that my Venezuelan friends told me.
Some students carry guns at the university campus, especially during the student elections to show their power and scare everyone. Police used to patrol in those areas and there used to be some conflicts between them and the students. Once there was even a small gun fight and a person was shot in the leg. Now, the police is forbidden to come to the university area as the universities have their own security. Even though the security cannot carry guns and they wouldn’t be able to do anything against armed students, the things became quieter.
Another time, a masked robber rushed into a classroom pointing a gun at everyone, shouting not to look at him and to give all the calculators and Blackberrys. Oh, and once, there was an office set on fire.
And it all happened at the university campus.
There are 3 million people living in Maracaibo. Some say that 50% of them have been robbed at least once in their lifetime, while others think that it might be around 70% or even more.
Small robberies are so common that no-one really cares about it too much- you just give them everything you have and walk away if you don’t want to get shot for 20-30$.
One afternoon, a girl was walking on the street when two guys approached her from both sides, asked her to keep quiet and remain walking straight. Luckily, there was another guy (who was actually an undercover police officer) who loudly called the girl and made the robbers run away.
Not long ago, an aunt was robbed while trying to unlock the gates in the front of her house.
About three weeks ago, an AIESEC member was jogging in her closed neighbourhood. Suddenly, a car stopped near her, a guy jumped out and tried to force her into the car. She somehow managed to free herself from his arms and run away.
Another girl was driving on the street with the car windows opened. When she stopped at the traffic lights, a man pointed a gun at her head and started shouting at her, asking to give him the car keys and leave the car. I cannot imagine why would anyone do that but she suddenly accelerated and ran away from him alive. Maybe she was to pretty to be shot. 🙂 Oh, and I’m sorry if you are going to find some dark humour here but it is very common when Venezuelan people describe these situations as well. I guess laugh is the only way you can deal with it.
And if you don’t believe that you can get kidnapped in the middle of the day, here is a beautiful example of how the kidnappers operate:
Of course, they are not going to kidnap everyone they see on the street for the first time… well, unless you are a girl, I guess. – “One late evening, we were driving in a car when we saw a man jumping out from a car in front of us, grabbing a girl who was walking alone on the street, pushing her into the car and quickly driving away.”
However, I think you can relax a little bit if you are a man or not wealthy at all. The criminals are really intelligent and they carefully select their victims after long observations.
In this case, the person in the video had a local business and he was actually kidnapped in the front of his own fast food restaurant.
Oh, and I actually went to that restaurant to have a traditional Venezuelan meal called arepas. 🙂
Anyway, talking more about the intelligence of the criminals, they carefully observe rich people for long periods of time and know the best times to kidnap them. Afterwards, they kidnap you, ask for a large amount of money and warn you not to call the police. It’s not just for scaring – if you do call the police, they just kill you. Simply like that.
And if you do pay the money, they might leave you alone. At least for some time until they kidnap you again.
The same goes with cars as well. They steal your car, they call you (because they know your telephone number) and ask for money. If you do pay, they will usually give it back. The worst decision after you get your car back – not to sell it.
Why? Because the thieves know that you can pay the money and ~6 months latter they will most probably steal your car again.
There was once a woman who got her car stolen. She payed the money and received the car back. Then, they stole the car again and she had to pay the money once more. The funny thing is that after the second payment the thieves called her and said “common, don’t be silly – just sell the car or we will steal it again” – the thieves couldn’t be more noble, could they?!
Another story – the thieves stole a car with a man who was driving it. That man was later dumped outside the city without any clothes, that is, completely naked. Well, better naked than dead, I guess.
Oh, and they even told me that some years ago it was common to make a deal with the criminals – as an insurance, each month/year you would pay them a certain amount of money so that they wouldn’t do any harm to you. And if some other group of criminals stole your car, the “security” would bring it back to you, or, if they hurt your family member, they would usually start killing those others criminals – wonderful things!
And I was told that there were even some stickers that the “security” group would put on your car as a warning for other thieves not to mess with you. How cool is that?
Lastly, if you don’t believe what I say, here is some sad information from The New York Times:
“In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.”
So, statistically it’s more dangerous to live in Caracas (the capital of Venezuela) than in Baghdad, where, until recently, there was a real war going on. A thing local people used to joke about seems not to be a joke anymore…
However, I might be painting the whole situation a bit too black… But I am not discouraging you from coming to Venezuela. The country is gorgeous and there are plenty of places that are suitable for tourists and really safe!
Well, at least it’s what I’ve heard… 🙂
(And you can find the full article from “The New York Times” HERE.)
I hoped you enjoyed reading this post. If you find some serious mistakes, feel free to correct me. 🙂
See you next time,