Venezuela on track for new murder record
Caracas - Venezuela is on track to set a new record for murders and to remain South America's most violent country, according to data released by a crime watchdog.
The Venezuela Violence Monitor (OVV) said Tuesday that 19 336 people had been murdered in 2011, an average of 53 per day in a country of 29 million.
"We must inform the nation that 2011 will end as the most violent year in the nation's history," the group said in a press release.
The group's figures indicate that the rate of homicides climbed to 67 per 100 000 inhabitants in 2011, constituting an "epidemic" of violence.
Violent crime is a leading concern, both for Venezuelans fearful for their personal safety and for left-wing President Hugo Chavez's government, which provides only limited violent crime figures.
In February, the interior minister admitted that the homicide rate had climbed to 48 murders per 100 000 inhabitants in 2010 but did not give a precise count, saying only that there were around 14 000 killings that year.
That murder rate surpassed those of neighboring Colombia, which was 32 per 100 000 inhabitants last year, and Mexico, which was 14 per 100 000 inhabitants.
Colombia is beset by a leftist insurgency and Mexico is in the throes of bloody war among drug cartels.