Is the (Red) Tide Turning in Venezuela?

Doubtless coincidentally, the prohibition is for the four weeks leading up to the September 26 general election.

The photos involved only one morgue in Caracas. According to el Universal, another Venezuelan newspaper:

Caracas has now the world's highest murder rate. According to official figures reported by a survey on victimization carried out by the National Statistics Institute (INE), the Venezuelan capital has become the deadliest city in the world. A total of 7,676 people were killed in the Metropolitan Area of Caracas in 2009, that is, about one murder every hour and a half.

The murder rate in Venezuela as a whole is also rather high. According to the Venezuelan government figures, there were 13,975 murders there in 2009, compared with 5,968 in 1999. That's 38.29 per day, or 1.6 per hour:

The UN’s latest figures show that the murder rate in Venezuela is 52 per 100,000. That compares with 11.6 in Mexico, where a gruesome drug war is playing out, and 38.8 in Colombia, whose government has been at war with insurgents for decades.

While none of these statistics may be highly accurate, particularly those from government sources which usually are not, Venezuela may not be a relaxing place for a vacation or, for that matter, in which to live or die. Iraq, with only 4,644 murders in 2009 in a population slightly greater than that of Venezuela, seems relatively more tranquil.

It is highly likely that even with rampant censorship, the people of Venezuela have a good idea of the level of criminal violence there; they can't avoid it because they live and die there. It also seems likely that they understand Chávez' Bolivarian Socialism is among the major causes. The anti-Chávez gesture by the outgoing Miss Universe was as symbolic as it was brave:

Fernandez waved her flag for the same reason Americans waved theirs after 9/11 -- to convey resolution amid distress. Her flag had seven stars, significant because Chavez had arbitrarily added an eighth, making any use of a difficult-to-find seven-star banner an act of defiance.

Fernandez's countrymen went wild with joy on bulletin boards and Facebook, showing just how worried they are about their country. Their greatest fear is violent crime.

Crime is a big issue, and should be a major factor in the elections scheduled for September 26, despite Chávez' claims that the murder rate is no worse now than eleven years ago; it is. Gross incompetence, corruption, inflation, scarcities of basic food, and the shortage of hard currency needed to import food as well as other necessities -- due to decreased oil revenues -- haven't helped either. Of course, nothing is Chávez' fault, and he is said to have created three and one half million jobs. Nearly all are presumably in the public sector. Still, his popularity even among the poor, of whom there are very many in Venezuela and who have traditionally been his electoral base, has declined remarkably, and hit a seven-year low of 36 percent in July.

Unfortunately, facts and popular discontent are not likely to have much effect on whether Chavista candidates win sufficient seats to continue to control the national assembly. As noted in the Buenos Aires Herald:

Analysts expect his ruling socialist party to retain control at this month's polls, but say the opposition is forecast to win at least one-third of the seats in parliament.

With PSUV election czar Andres Izarra calling lots of the shots, rampant gerrymandering, many opposition candidates in jail either on trumped-up charges or none at all, and likely fraud, there is little hope for a peaceful transition of power. It may be that the only "hope" for salutary change will involve a violent post-election revolution, which if it comes, will be very bloody.

Might that be a principal reason why Chávez is buying lots of armaments from China and Russia? I don't know, but it could provide for some rather interesting speculation later this month.