The Violence Question Dominates Campaign To Succeed Chavez

After the death of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela is set for the second presidential election in less than six months. Chavez's handpicked successor Nicolas Maduro faces challenger Henrique Capriles.

Maduro tries the personal touch
Maduro tries the personal touch
Ludmila Vinogradoff

CARACAS – The official presidential campaign period to replace Hugo Chavez will be a short one – only ten days, instead of the usual three months in Venezuela.

The dominant themes of the campaign, which started on Tuesday, are violence and insecurity. Both candidates have made these issues their number one priority – Chavez successor Nicolas Maduro and contender Henrique Capriles have vowed to change Venezuela’s reputation as one of the most violent countries in the world.

Before Chavez was elected in 1998, there were about 4,500 homicides a year in Venezuela. Fourteen years later, that number rose to over 20,000, in 2012. According to statistics from the United Nations and the Organization of American States, Venezuela is somewhere between the fifth and the second most violent country in the world – with 46 to 60 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Police sources claim that Chavez had to negotiate with illegal sectors in order to be elected. But later, these illegal sectors gained so much power that the government lost its control over them. This explains why, during 14 years in office, Chavez never went after them and allowed crime to escalate to the high levels it is today.

During these 14 years, the Chavez government announced 19 public security plans, all of which failed, explains Carlos Vecchio from the Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) centrist party, created by Chavez opponent Leopoldo Lopez.

“During the 100 days of Maduro’s interim government, more than 4,000 murders happened, and numbers appear to be increasing. The morgue in Caracas is overwhelmed,” adds Vecchio.

Feasting on death

Unlike Chavez, Maduro has been talking about insecurity for weeks. On Monday he toured the new facilities of the National Experimental Security University, where police officers are trained. During the same visit, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol 3,400 homicides had been recorded in the first three months of 2013.

Maduro accused the media of “making a feast of death with the problems of violence and crime,” which he said had been generated by “the negative values of capitalism.” He vowed to be the president “of peace.”

Capriles is also focusing on the themes of crime and insecurity, saying the nation dreams of “being able to walk through the streets after dark,” and “public spaces should belong to the citizens.” He pledged to make Venezuela's streets safe again.

The NGO Asociacion Civil Paz Activa (Active Civil Peace Association) presented a law project this week, entitled Damages to the Victims of Homicide and Kidnapping. “The goal is to establish a set of legal and administrative provisions, as well as an array of social, economic, individual and collective measures for victims of homicide and kidnapping,” explains sociologist Luis Cedeno, the NGO’s executive director.

“The official figures talk of about 1,100 kidnappings a year, but our research shows this number is about three or four times higher. Victims seldom report kidnappings by fear of reprisals,” says Cedeno.

The first campaign polls show Maduro leading Capriles by 7 to 22 points.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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