By Jeremy Morgan
Latin American Herald Tribune staff
CARACAS -- Violent crime shows no signs of abating in Venezuela's capital and may even be getting worse, for all the government's claims to be getting on top of thugs and villains -- statements which it declines to back up with official statistics on how things are.
In the absence of statistics, unofficial estimates have it that 65 people met violent deaths here last weekend. That was more or less par for the body count in recent times, and in at least one instance it was a case of a young innocent getting in the way in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The child, whose name hasn't been disclosed, perished in the middle of a shoot-out between rival gangs in San Blas, a brutalized area of Petare, a poor distrcit in east Caracas long reknowned as unsafe even in broad daylight. Residents gathered to protest Monday but by then it was too late.
Much the same could be said for Jairo Jose Gil, although he managed to make it to 20 before he ran into a bunch of bandits as he made his way home in his jeep last Saturday night. Witnesses say three guys jumped into the vehicle and demanded the BsF300 he was carrying -- how they knew about that isn't clear -- and when he denied them they shot him three times in the face.
He and the child were just two of the 305 people who've ended up at the city morgue as a result of violent means this month so far. Already, there's speculation about whether the figure for the full month is going to hit 500.
A grandmother is giving grace and thanks to He whom she calls the All Powerfull for saving her grandson, not once but twice, in his two short years. Six months ago, baby Lunier Rodriguez, with the curiosity and innocence of his age, took a swig out of a bottle of detergent. He just about survived that, but his throat was badly damaged and he has to be fed through a pipe.
Last week, he was walking in La Florida, a comfortable middle class district, with his father (also called Lunier) when somebody or other opened fire. Lunier Senior was slain on the spot, his wife emerged unscathed, but a bullet hit little Lunier Junior near the eye.
The grandmother says that the doctor who looked after the wee one told her that some bones in his face had been broken by the bullet. However, there was comfort to be had from the doctor's advice that since Lunier was still in the early stages of development, the bones would reform and he'd be OK.
Two young men were a lot less lucky. They were ambushed two Saturdays ago and went missing. One of them was the son of a Metropolitan Police sergeant, who reported the case to the Missing Persons bureau at the scientific and investigative police, CICPC. Evidently, he thought progress wasn't swift enough and mobilized his colleagues to carry out a search.
Eventually, they found the two lads, very dead from bullet wounds, in a woodland off a lonely track. The reckoning is that they were killed on the same day they were snatched, and that this may have been a case of venegeance, which still doesn't really explain why they were slaughtered.
The cops were in the firing line, too, and not always in the defense of the state but rather themselves. An officer from CICPC was shot by a gang who were out to steal his car. In Bolivar state, a municipal police officer was attacked and killed by a gang intent on stealing his gun.
Four people have been arrested in connection with this case, and the chief suspect for the actual killing is said to be a young woman.
The cops, as ever, are under suspicion. An officer from CICPC is being investigated by his own colleagues to establish whether there's a connection between him and the killing of a young man who was shot dead in his tracks as he left a discotheque with his girlfriend. The officer is question is said to be nicknamed Thor after the pagan god of thunder, and detectives are also trying to work out whether there was any connection between him and the youth's girlfriend.
Buses also remain a favorite target of attack. In Maracay, capital of Aragua state, a 30-year-old student unwisely refused to hand over his cellular telephone to a gang who'd gotten on to the bus with the objective of robbing everybody. Luis Avila Barrios, 30, won't be making any more calls after being buried with a large hole in his chest.