April 14, 2008

Venezuela's Casualties of Revolution

Carroll Andrew Morse

This line from Ambassador William Middendorf's scathing critique of Hugo Chavez and his enablers published in Saturday's Projo should really grab your attention…

According to a 2005 U.N. report, more people die from gunfire in Venezuela than in any other country on Earth (including Iraq).
Citing only gunfire deaths arguably obscures the issue since explosions in Iraq are also a source of civilian harm. But even after including civilian fatalities from all war-related violence, Iraq's civilian fatality rate over the past six months is still less than the most recently reported homicide rates from Venezuela.

Analyzing figures provided by the Department of Defense as part of the Iraq Index project, the Brookings Institution estimates that about 4,850 civilian deaths occurred in Iraq between September 2007 and February 2008, the last six months for which data is available. Given Iraq's population of 27.5 million, this translates to a rate of approximately 35 civilian fatalities per 100,000 people per year, which, make no mistake, is too high.

The numbers for Venezuela are significantly worse…

  • According to a UNESCO study cited by the New York Times, presumably the study referred to by Ambassador Middendorf, Venezuela suffered 41.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2002.
  • The same New York Times article, using official figures from Venezuela's Criminal Investigations Police, reported a total of 7,616 murders in Venezuela through the first 8 months of 2006, a rate of 44 homicides per 100,000 people per year.
  • According to the the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, the Criminal Investigations Police reported a total of 12,249 murders in Venezuela between January 1 and November 30 of 2007, a rate of 51 homicides per 100,000 people per year. (h/t Gateway Pundit)
  • The Times article reports that the current murder rate in Venezuela is approximately double what it was in 1999, the year President Hugo Chavez took office.
Given the Venezuelan death toll, do those who claim that the removal of Saddam Husein from power has been an unmitigated disaster void of redeeming value also say the same thing of Venezuela's "Bolivaran Revolution"? Or is a belief that any price is acceptable to build socialism, while no price is acceptable in the attempt to advance freedom still unfortunately finding its sympathizers?

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The comments of J. William Middendorf II were the finest example of the pot calling the kettle black since there have been pots and kettles. What I have put in quotes are statements directly taken from the Middendorf article. My comments directly follow the quoted citations.

"there has been little, if any, real improvement in the lives of the poor under Chavez" - Change "Chavez" to "Bush" and the same is true of life in these United States.

"The underlying structural economic and political problems of Venezuela have not been solved" - Change Venezuela to The United States and we are looking in the mirror.

"living conditions there have actually deteriorated significantly." - Change "there" to "here".

"Income inequality and poverty have not improved" - We're currently staring at a deepening recession with unemployment on the rise.

"Crime in Venezuela continues to rise", and "Poor economic fundamentals plague the country. Venezuelans suffer from rising inflation." - Change "Venezuela" to "The United States" and arrive at several more ugly domestic truths.

"In Venezuela, poor governance is pervasive. Chavez has ignored many needed repairs to infrastructure despite increased borrowing and growing budget deficits." - Change "Venezuela" to "The United States" and "Chavez" to "Bush", and look at our infrastructure and budget deficits.

"Under Chavez, corruption permeates all levels of society. Bureaucrats rarely follow existing bidding regulations, while demanding bribes from ordinary citizens and neglecting basic government services." - Anyone remember the "great job" Brownie did after the New Orleans disaster, or Scooter Libby, or no bid Blackwater contracts, just to name a few?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 14, 2008 1:21 PM

This "Old Time Lefty" is nothing but a troll. I think it is Bobby O under a new IP.
Give this creep the hook.

Posted by: Mike at April 14, 2008 1:41 PM

Sometimes he's right. This is one of those times.

Who are we if we boot those who say things we don't like just because we don't like hearing it? He's not picking fights and his arguments are intelligently made, so I'm confident that he's not Bobby.

Posted by: Greg at April 14, 2008 1:45 PM

OTL is someone you can debate with,even if you don't agree-he doesn't resort to the infantile tactics of Pat Crowley or Bob Walsh.I will admit I have also flung some nasty remarks at and about people.I had an exchange on another thread here with OTL and we didn't abandon our positions,but we didn't treat each othe disrespectfully either.Sometimes people can have the same base of knowledge having grown up around the same era,yet draw completely different conclusions.
As far as Venezuela,I saw Maria Conchita Alonzo,originally from Venezuela,interviewed on a cable show and her opinion of the Chavez regime was extremely negative.She felt that american supporters of Chavez were shown what the regime wanted them to see and not much else.I ahd never noticed Ms.Alonzo getting her name into political issues and I was a little surprised.She sounded like she knew what she was talking about.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 14, 2008 2:12 PM

I can assure you that:
1. I'm not now, nor have I ever been a troll.
2. I have no idea who Bobby O is.
3. I thoroughly reject censorship.
Why don't you present an argument and then we may proceed from there.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 14, 2008 5:45 PM

Chavez is the little troll version of Fidel Castro ... or to put it another way, Fidel Castro's "Mini-me."

Posted by: Tom W at April 14, 2008 5:50 PM


Suppose I accept your straight-up equivalence between Venezuela and the U.S, which I don't (it's a little silly to compare a nationwide doubling of the homicide rate, 20% inflation, and a middle class forced to wander the streets in search of powdered milk to current conditions in the U.S.).

But suppose I did.

I know a big part of your solution for the U.S. is replacing the President with someone who has different ideas for leading the country. Given the equivalence you see in the problems, do you endorse the same solution for Venezuela?

Posted by: Andrew at April 14, 2008 10:33 PM


Very silly question. Bush and his administration inherited a surplus and turned it into the largest deficit of any nation in history. His war in Iraq and his foreign policy have been disastrous. I live in this country and it is to this country that I direct my energies. Of course he needs to be replaced by a member of the opposing party.

I have never been to Venezuela, but I feel certain that Chavez has done better for his country than Bush has for ours. I am sceptical with regard to news about South and Central America because I remember that Pinochet of Chile was lauded by our government while he was savaging the Chilean people. I remember that Rios Mott in Guatemala was considered our friend and a democrat while he was trying to exterminate the Mayan population. I visited Guatemala several times and can recommend a few books that you might care to read on the subject. As I said, I live in the U.S. and it is our propaganda machine that I fear.

I say "our" because I assume that you too are a U.S. citizen.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 15, 2008 12:21 AM

The overall homicide statistics are from official Venezuelan government sources and UNESCO is not exactly known as a branch of the Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation.

They homicide statistics show that there have been as many or more murders in Venezuela, relative to the pre-Chavez days, per year for the last several years than there have been American soldiers and sailors killed in the entire five years of the Iraq war.

If you believe it is reasonable for people to want to remove George W. Bush as President for supporting policies that have led to the deaths of four-thousand-plus American servicemen in Iraq, isn't it also to reasonable (and not silly to ask) to want to remove Hugo Chavez for supporting policies that have led to the deaths of tens-of-thousands Venezuelans over the same period?

Posted by: Andrew at April 15, 2008 11:09 AM

I'll try to explain in simpler terms.

1. We live here. We need to clean up our own house first. As my Italian grandmother used to say, "If you have a devil in your kitchen and another in your yard, you better deal with the one in the kitchen first."

2. Your concern for the violence in Venezuela does not seem to extend to the violence caused by Bushista policies in Iraq. Over two million Iraqis are now refugees, and a half million, some say more, have been killed.

Moral: Take care of the kitchen before you try to clean the yard.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 15, 2008 1:02 PM

P.S. Here are the countries with the most murders, ranked by decreasing numbers of victims:

#1 India: 37,170
#2 Russia: 28,904
#3 Colombia: 26,539
#4 South Africa: 21,995
#5 Mexico: 13,829
#6 United States: 12,658
#7 Venezuela: 8,022

Before we go after Venezuela shouldn't we go after India, Russia, Colombia (Our democratic ally?), South Africa, Mexico and the United States first?

Also, no matter which way you slice it Colombia leads the world in death by murder. This leads me to believe that you have a bee in your bonnet for Venezuela because you don't like the way they structure their economy or foreign policy. How else to explain your lack of concern regarding Colombia? Also, the city that leads all others in murders world wide is Washington D.C.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 15, 2008 1:20 PM

OTL-what matters is the murder rate(per capita)-not the raw numbers.I think Colombia has a larger population than Venezuela-44 million to 26 million-Colombia does have a higher murder rate,but Venezuela's is much worse than the USA.The raw numbers DO matter to the victims and their families.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 15, 2008 3:19 PM

This takes us back to my original question which is why are you singling out Venezuela? Colombia has more murders no matter which way you count it, in shear volume and per capita. It certainly looks like you wink at Colombia and condemn Venezuela because you agree with the foreign and domestic policies of the former and disagree with those of the latter. Your prejudices are showing.

Also, you seem to be saying that absolute numbers don't count, only percentages do. What makes you the arbiter of that? Why should your judgment here mean more than mine or anyone else's?

Don't you get the homily about cleaning your kitchen before cleaning your yard?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 15, 2008 6:09 PM


The Nationmaster data you presented is for the years 1998-2000. For Venezuela, it is specifically from the year 2000 and the original source is the Criminal Investigations Police, the same source that gave the figure of 12,249 murders for Jan-Nov 2007.

The last year I can find data for Colombia is 2005, with 17,726 homicides. That's a rate of about 40 per 100,000 per year, not good, but better than current conditions in Venezuela. It's also significantly lower than 2002 (28,837 murders), the year Alvaro Uribe was elected President.

Venezuela has earned scrutiny in this area because of the dramatic and sustained increase in the homicide rate that occurred over a short period of time and has not relented. The homicide rate in Venezuela was in the high teens-low 20s per 100,000 per year for most of the 1990s, but since 2000 has been consistently in the 30s, 40s and above. Are you at all curious about what changed in Venezuela around the year 2000?

I do admire your chutzpah for suggesting I'm the one looking at this ideologically. So purely in the abstract, given one leader who has presided over high but decreasing homicide rate, and another who has presided over a homicide rate that has increased so much, it has surpassed the first one, who would you say provides the better example of domestic governance?

Posted by: Andrew at April 15, 2008 7:40 PM

OTL-Of course the rate matters most to the neutral observer.I think Colombia has been mired in violence almost non-stop since 1952 when "La Violencia" commenced.The "shear(sp)" numbers as you mentioned have to be measured in the context of the total population-there are 300 million people in the USA.We have 11 times the population of Venezuela but only half again as many homicides.Which is the more murderous society?Politics be damned in this discussion-it's not about philosophy,but about actual occurences.
I'd rather reside in the USA than Venezuela-and you?

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 15, 2008 8:43 PM

NO JOE the rate does not matter. These are real people we are talking about. I am with the OTL aka Steve Carlton

Posted by: David at April 16, 2008 5:09 PM

I am flattered by the "aka Steve Carlton". He was a lefty who threw high and tight to righties and usually got them to flail away helplessly at his offerings. He sawed off a lot of bats.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 17, 2008 5:54 PM

Bush inherited a surplus and turned it into the largest deficit of any nation in history. His war in Iraq and his foreign policy have been disastrous. Why would any sane person support his administration? See if you can digest this: I live here, not in Venezuela. I want to clean up here before I look outward.

There has been little, if any, real improvement in the lives of the poor here.

The underlying structural economic and political problems have not been solved here.

Income inequality and poverty have not improved here.

Poor economic fundamentals plague the country. We suffer from rising inflation here.

We need many repairs to our infrastructure and we have increased borrowing and have grown budget deficits right here.

New Orleans continues to be a disaster. The pardon of Scooter Libby was disgraceful and billions, maybe trillions have been wasted in Iraq.

Do you deny any of these? Are you trying to blame Venezuela or Chavez for our problems?


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 17, 2008 6:12 PM

Un poco mas de Colombia - A little more about Colombia. The following is excerpted from a first hand account of the current goings on in Colombia:

SOUTH KINGSTOWN - Eustaquio Polo Rivera, 39, of Choco, Colombia, remembers a time when he, his wife, nine children and two grandchildren lived happily in the Curvaradó River Basin.
"We were free and grew our own food," Polo Rivera said, through an interpreter, using a small notebook to help him gather his thoughts.

But that changed in 1997, when the Colombian military and paramilitary began taking their land so multi-national corporations could farm it. In the years since, thousands have either been killed or fled.

"They said whoever didn't leave would be shot," Polo Rivera said. He stayed and worked with the resistance, but the pressure continued, he said.

The military made offers few could refuse. "If you don't sell us the land, we will buy it from your widow," he was told.

Now, instead of native crops like rice, bananas, plantains and yucca, African palm oil grows on thousands of acres that Polo Rivera's people - the indigenous Afro-Colombians - claim is rightfully theirs. And large swaths of forests have been cut down to make way for grazing fields.

Eustaquio goes on, and if you are interested I can give you the complete citation.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 18, 2008 2:35 PM

David-WTF??I can't follow your thinking.The homicide rate is indicative of how dangerous a place is.It's the easiest major crime statistic to measure because it is relatively hard to conceal and more frequently reported than other crimes.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 18, 2008 10:15 PM


So is your point that both the people of Colombia and Venezuela have a legitimate grievance against their government and should be looking for a change, or that neither the people of Colombia and Venezuela have a legitimate grievance against their government, and should be happy with the way things are, because I can't tell from your comments.

Posted by: Andrew at April 19, 2008 12:42 PM
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