One person is murdered every two hours in Venezuela, according to new statistics released by the independent Venezuelan Observatory of Violence.
The murder rate in the South American country has more than quadrupled since Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999. There were 54 homicides per 100,000 people last year, a rate only exceeded on the continent by El Salvador, where there were 70 homicides per 100,000 citizens.
"The problem is not so much the criminals, but rather the government's inaction and lack of policies," Roberto Briceño León, director of the VOV, told reporters.
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Chávez blames the high crime rates on wealth inequality created under former leaders, but that doesn't explain why the murder rate has exploded during his decade-plus in power.
Briceño blames an ineffective justice system and high rates of corruption.
The capital city, Caracas, has the highest murder rate on the continent and the second-highest in the Western Hemisphere, with 140 murders per 100,000 citizens last year.