Venezuela's military sent into high-crime slums
PETARE, Venezuela — Stern-looking soldiers clutching assault rifles wave down the beat-up Chevy Caprice entering this sprawling slum on the outskirts of Caracas.
Flashlights in his face, the driver steps out and places his hands on the roof while the soldiers frisk him for drugs and weapons.
He's clean, and he's sent off into the maze of ramshackle homes that is Petare, one of the most dangerous parts of Venezuela's notoriously crime-infested capital.
Since Monday, this scene is playing out day and night at dozens of military checkpoints set up here in the socialist government's latest attempt to control the oil-rich country's pandemic of violence.
With some 15,000 killings a year, Venezuela has a homicide rate that is the fifth highest in the world, according to U.N. statistics. The murder rate doubled during the 14-year rule of the late President Hugo Chavez as cheap access to guns and an ineffective justice system fed a culture of violence.
Critics dismiss the “Secure Homeland” initiative as a political charade. Some of the first military units were deployed in areas under the political control of the opposition to the current regime.
But to many residents, weary of being terrorized by armed gangs, seeing troops on the streets is a welcome projection of government power.
“You have to act forcefully so that people feel the force of the state,” said Irving Garcia, 47, an unemployed former Army reservist.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
- Conviction overturned in Italy murder case for Seattle woman
- Antarctica yields life in extremist of conditions, so what about on another planet?
- Airstrikes intensify in Yemen as Egypt, Saudis consider ground forces
- Nigerian President Jonathan urges peaceful vote as elections loom
- Terror strikes Somalia hotel
- Israel to release tax funds held over Palestinian Authority’s move to join the ICC
- Alone at controls, Germanwings co-pilot sought to ‘destroy’ the plane
- Obama may alter drawdown but still determined to end Afghan war
- Iran poses top threat to Mideast stability, Israeli consul general says
- Controversial bishop’s appointment in Chile riles pope’s panel
- Copilot’s friends doubt Germanwings crash intentional