In Venezuela, criminals feel the pinch of an economic crisis

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 In Venezuela, criminals feel the pinch of an economic crisis

Since the fall of economy in Venezuela it’s hard for the street gangster to survive, just a bullet cost $1 each and with less cash circulating on the street. Firing a gun has become a luxury as told by The feared street gangster El Negrits sleeps with a pistol under his pillow and even said that he’s lost track of his murder count.

It’s a great impact for the 24 year old that has all given way to a simple fact: Life has become hard for the Venezuelan criminal to get by.

“Emptying a pistol clip, you’re shooting off $15” said El Negrito, told to The Associated Press on the condition that 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.”

Publishing of statistics charting crime trends had been stopped long ago by the officials of President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist administration however something of an unexpected silver lining to the country’s all-consuming economic crunch, experts say armed assaults and killings are falling at high speed 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. 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.

Shortage of food and medicine has driven some 3.7 million to seek better prospects in places like Colombia, Panama and Peru, mostly are from young males from whom gangs recruit. Even the works are often reduce due to nationwide strikes.

But as the country falls into a state of lawlessness many Venezuelans commit to crime find themselves subject to the same chaos that has led to a broader political and social meltdown. Some who are against blame 20 years of the socialist revolution launched by the late President Hugo Chávez, who expropriated once-thriving businesses that today produce a fraction of their potential under government management.

At the beginning of this year Juan Guaidó the opposition leader launched a bold campaign with the support of the U.S. and more than 50 nations to oust Maduro, who succeeded Chávez. Due to this chaos, crime has not so much disappeared but simply a morphed imitating from one another. While assaults are down, reports of theft and pilfering of everything from copper telephone wires to livestock are surging.

Many residents in Caracas abide undeclared curfew due to fear for their safety, despite the significant drop in killings, gold and silver wedding rings are secured in safety place at home, while others have grown accustomed to checking whether they are being followed.

“Venezuela remains one of the most violent countries in the world,” said Dorothy Kronick, who teaches political science at the University of Pennsylvania and hascarried out extensive research in Caracas’ slums. “It has wartime levels of violence — but no war.”

El Negrito leads for-hire hoodlums called the Crazy Boys, a band that forms part of an intricate criminal network in Petare, one of Latin America’s largest and most feared slums. The gangster, who agreed to an interview with two associates at their hillside hideout in Caracas, said his group now carries out roughly five kidnappings a year, down considerably from years past.

Kidnapping and abduction has become a big business, they kidnappers keep the victim for around 48 hours on the hand the victims family collect as much cash as they can find, with kidnappers focused on speed and a quick return rather than on the size of the payout. El Negrito said the ransom they set depends on what a victim’s car costs, and a deal can turn deadly if demands aren’t met. But like many of his associates, he has considered leaving the trade in Venezuela and emigrating.

He said some people have quit the world of crime and sought more honest work abroad, fearing stiff penalties in other countries where laws are more enforced.

El Negrito passed a silver pistol between his hands while explaining about his struggle to support his wife and young daughter. A Bible lay open to Proverbs on a dresser as a breeze turned the pages.

Robert Briceño, director of the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, said the decline in homicides is a matter of basic economics: As cash becomes scarce in Venezuela, there is less to steal.

“These days, nobody is doing well — not honest citizens who produce wealth or the criminals who prey on them,” he said.

One associate of the Crazy Boys, who gave only his nickname, Dog, said he has no trouble finding ammunition for his guns on the black market. He said the challenge is paying for them in a country where the average person earns $6.50 a month.

“A pistol used to cost one of these bills,” he said, crumbling up a 10 bolivar bill that can no longer be used to buy a single cigarette. “Now, this is nothing.”