Venezuelan comovement now includes violent crime too

The feared street gangster El Negrito sleeps with a pistol under his pillow and says he’s lost track of his murder count. But despite his hardened demeanor, he’s quick to gripe about how Venezuela’s failing economy is cutting into his profits.

Firing a gun has become a luxury. Bullets are expensive at $1 each. And with less cash circulating on the street, he says robberies just don’t pay like they used to.

For the 24-year-old, that has all given way to a simple fact: Even for Venezuelan criminals it’s become harder to get by.

“If you empty your clip, you’re shooting off $15,” said El Negrito, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition he be identified only by his street name and photographed wearing a hoodie and face mask to avoid attracting unwelcomed attention. “You lose your pistol or the police take it and you’re throwing away $800.”

In something of an unexpected silver lining to the country’s all-consuming economic crunch, experts say armed assaults and killings are plummeting in one of the world’s most violent nations. At the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a Caracas-based nonprofit group, researchers estimate homicides have plunged up to 20% over the last three years based on tallies from media clippings and sources at local morgues.

Officials of President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist administration have drawn criticism for not releasing robust crime statistics, but the government on Tuesday gave the AP figures showing a 39 percent drop in homicides over the same three-year period, with 10,598 killings in 2018. Officials also report a fall in kidnappings.

The decline has a direct link to the economic tailspin that has helped spark a political battle for control of the once-wealthy oil nation.

Here is more from Scott Smith, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Comments

'experts say armed assaults and killings are plummeting in one of the world’s most violent nations'

So, is this another success, or another failure, of socialism? Because one thing that socialism in all its various totalitarian guises used to deliver reliably was lower free enterprise motivated crime rates.

A rare success. It would be an even bigger success were the government to nationalize crime: then crime would not pay!

I know you are being ironic, but -- to use a phrase of your own -- it is almost as if socialist states naturally morph into criminal enterprises.

They begin, often, with coups that displace those in power, and then as traditional enterprises are destroyed, replaced or in time honored socialist fashion, run into the ground, the state and some of its new elite actors turn to crime for revenue. I'm thinking not just of rent seeking and extortion but of crime like drug cultivation and distribution, etc.

(NB: one thinks of the Soviet socialist/communist transfer of people/groups and the standard accounts are that this transfer was done to better distribute populations and enterprise/industry. But what happened to the property of the transferred people? What if the point was not just to a) move enterprise by moving people but to b) steal property to distribute to allies and supporters and clients? Expropriation of CAPITALIST property was of course explained not as theft but as the restoration of the means of production to its rightful moral owners: the people. But ethnic cleansing under the Soviets has been seen as racist and power based but perhaps under appreciated as simple looting.)

I suggested a while back that one solution to the gun problem (that is, the problem of too many rather than not enough) in the USA would be to make ammo harder to get, or unaffordable. That is, ban ammo while letting gun lovers keep their weapons. Some 4th amendment supporters countered that people would make (illegally, unlawfully, or otherwise) their own ammo. Perhaps it's not as easy as it seems if people whose business requires ammo can't find a way to get it at prices they can afford.

It's not too difficult to make your own ammunition and there are plenty of Americans who do. So while bullets could be made more expensive, making them so expensive that you'd only be willing to shoot people you really hated isn't very practical.

But in the margin it probably would help. If a teenager can only afford 30 bullets they might have to get a job to buy more. Then in the meantime they meet a nice girl, fall in love, and then get hit by a truck on the way to the Sock Hop.

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The 2nd amendment would protect the sale of ammunition also. There's nothing in the amendment that is specific to "guns".

There's nothing in it about assault weapons either but the NRA seems to think so.

The 2nd Amendment doesn't state a right to keep and bear ammo.

You're making stuff up.

It says "arms"

They're definitely "arms"

Why are people so bad at this? This is not a new debate

For the same reason you cannot put a $95,000 tax on abortion.

Seems to disproportionately affect those using guns for "legitimate" purposes (target practice, hunting) while doing little to deter violent crime, which are surely one-off affairs where the cost of ammo is in any event far less than the cost of the gun.

Why is “legitimate” in quotation marks?

Proof that socialism makes life expensive. Proof that capitalism makes life cheap.

Indeed, scarcity increases value. The more people that die the more valuable every remaining life is.

Very witty, but even a superficial reflection on history shows that life under socialism (to be fair, under communism, especially Soviet style) is the cheapest of all.

Of course, the story in the media about Venezuela has been about inflation, but the cause of the inflation in consumer prices has been deflation in commodity prices. And it's deflation in commodity prices triggered by world events (trade war, threats of actual war, etc.) that could spread anarchy throughout the developing world.

"but the cause of the inflation in consumer prices has been deflation in commodity prices. "

No, that's not remotely true. Venezuela can't manage to produce nearly as much oil as they could a decade ago. That's primarily due to the incompetence, high taxes and regulatory interference of the socialist government.

Indeed, the current price of oil is substantially higher than the price in 2003. And yet the Venezuelan economy is a basket case.

I'm a historian not an economist, but even I know how to drill down a bit deeper rayward: the deflation in commodity prices has indeed hurt, but the Venezuelan Marxists have destroyed the infrastructure of their economy. They have destroyed the physical plants AND they have destroyed the incentive structure of the market.

Lastly if you think that anarchy is going to take place in the developing world because of the Chavist destruction of Venezuela, you should uh rethink that. It's horrible for millions of people but at worst it is on par with Cuba being wrenched from the world system by Castro in the early 60s: politically important -- disastrous in the long term for the Cubans (and Angolans etc. etc.) -- but economically not that significant.

Similarly, Grexit in Europe was touted as a potential disaster for the EU's economy. Um, not really. Italy is another matter...

Yes, if one is willing to dig deep, one will find that it's complicated: https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-low-can-venezuelan-oil-production-go One of the points made in the linked article is that other oil producing countries have been complicit in the fall in production by Venezuela, as they were more than happy to let Venezuela suffer in order to reduce supply and thereby maintain the price of oil in global markets. In other words, deflation in commodity prices (in this case oil) has provided an incentive for other oil-producing countries to engage in anti-competitive conduct directed at Venezuela in order to reduce the negative consequences of the deflation on the other oil-producing countries.

"...the once-wealthy oil nation"

Written by someone who failed to understand Adam Smith.

Wealth is the productivity of people.

Don't think the author got it wrong.
Venezuela used to have the highest per capita income in Latin America, so it was once wealthy.
And it still is the nation with the largest oil reserves in the world.
Rephrased consistent with Adam Smith: ... the nation that was once wealthy but, despite having enormous oil resources, destroyed this wealth by adopting the wrong institutions.

"Wealth is the productivity of people."

The Venezuelan government managed to destroy the productivity of its people. It's clear that they didn't understand Adam Smith.

They don't have the capacity to understand Adam Smith, and the ones that did left.

At this point the only thing that can save Venezuela is a Pinochet who will throw the criminals in jail to rot and tell the rest that they will have to work for a living. But all the erstwhile Pinochets are probably in South Florida.

Or, they can just muddle along with low living standards forever, like Cuba or North Korea.

"...the government on Tuesday gave the AP figures showing..."

Uh-huh. And in other news, the Government reported that the economy was in great shape, and that Maduro won a smashing victory in the presidential election.

...I mean, seriously ?!? When are we going to learn that any figures reported by an authoritarian or totalitarian government need to be weighed with the Baloney Factor?

When are we going to learn that figures reported by any government need to be weighed with the Baloney Factor?

Bear in mind that Venezuela has lost, according to various estimates, anywhere from 7-13% of its population to emigration. That migration is likely to be disproportionately weighted toward young, healthy men, if other such mass movements are any guide. There's much of the drop in crime right there.

A friend working in a little town in Peru was just telling me about a grisly double murder apparently committed by a couple of Venezuelans working for a local vineyard, who have already fled towards Ecuador.

Hunter-gatherers don't need bullets.

making bullets too expensive to shoot is an old Chris Rock joke:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZrFVtmRXrw

I don't know whether to believe the story or not but if it is true does it say anything about poverty and crime and causality?
I once read a UK police official who said crime goes up when the economy is good because people drink more.
Some democrats used to contend that the way to tamp down violence from the middle east was to stop buying petroleum, presumebly so they would be so poor that they could not buy tickets to fly to the USA.

The story seems fishy, as a successful robbery involves a credible threat of force, but, that threat can be conveyed without expending ammunition.

Perhaps the real reason robberies are less profitable is because it's become more difficult to find victims who still have anything worth stealing?

I thought that was implied in the story. The gangster has to spend $15 for a clip of bullets, but it's hard to find someone with $15 worth of something to steal.

But there was another post here recently, maybe by Alex, to the effect that law and order is breaking down in rural Venezuela. But maybe it is only non-violent crime going up there. Robbers come in with guns but are faking it because they have no bullets?

You can credibly promise violence with a machete, or a brick. It's all relative...

Perhaps misleading to compare Cubans with North Koreans. Cubans seem reasonably happy, healthy and optimistic (obviously, they'd be much more so if they enjoyed a 2nd Amendment right to be armed to the teeth).

At least that seems to be the assessment of one recent observer:
http://global-training-report.com/drysdale_cuba_3-18-2019.htm

World Ends: Criminals Hardest Hit

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