CARACAS – The publication in a Venezuelan opposition-aligned daily of a photo of bodies piled up in a Caracas morgue sparked a reaction from police and the Ombud’s Office, which slammed the paper and asked judicial authorities to open an investigation.
The head of the CICPC scientific and investigative police force, Wilmer Flores, said this Friday that he will ask the Attorney General’s Office to open an inquiry against the privately owned daily El Nacional for publishing the photo on its front page.
“We are contacting the Attorney General’s Office in writing to take action against that newspaper,” Flores said on state television channel VTV from the Bello Monte Morgue in southeastern Caracas.
The police chief said that the picture, which shows naked and half-naked bodies, bloody and piled on tables and on the floor of the facility, was taken in “2006 and not at present.”
The photo also violates local laws for the protection of children and adolescents, since its publication can spread “fear” and anxiety among them, Flores said in a statement on state television.
From the clean, brightly lit chambers of the morgue, Flores said that the newspaper’s front page “goes against all ethics,” and far from being “true freedom of speech and information, it descends into morbidity.”
The paper is “playing with other people’s suffering” in publishing the picture and ignores “the effort” being made by state security forces in fighting crime, which is diminishing “progressively” in Venezuela, Flores said.
The Ombud’s Office presented Friday before the courts for the protection of boys, girls and adolescents a “protective suit against the daily El Nacional.”
That office requested the newspaper “to abstain from releasing pictures that violate the rights” of minors “and particularly against their progressive and comprehensive development,” state-run Radio Nacional de Venezuela said.
For his part, El Nacional editor Miguel Henrique Otero said that the picture published shows “what a terrible thing crime is in Venezuela.”
Otero said that the bottom of the photo shows it was taken “last December,” and that can be proved by “the date in the Cannon camera (which says that) it is Dec. 26, 2009.”
The brief text under the photo says that the Bello Monte Morgue, the only one in Caracas, “has received in the six first months of this year 2,177 bodies whose cause of death was homicide.”
Otero said in a statement on private TV channel Globovision that “all you have to do is stand at the morgue entrance to see what’s going on there, the overcrowding, because criminals are out of control.”
According to surveys, insecurity is the chief concern of the inhabitants of Venezuela, where an average of 10,000 violent deaths take place each year, according to data from a police study leaked to the press in 2008.
Venezuelan authorities have not officially released figures on violent crimes at least since 2006, and the little information that is known is published by the local press based on leaked documents or by compiling figures from police records.
El Nacional said Friday that, according to “unofficial figures” from the CICPC scientific police, between January and June this year “5,186” people were murdered in Venezuela.
It also compared data from the non-governmental organization Venezuelan Violence Observatory, which said that in 2009 there were “16,047 homicides” committed in Venezuela, with “unofficial figures from the CICPC,” which reported “13,780” murders in the same period.