The Venezuelan government announced that it is implementing a short term plan, called ‘Safe Homeland’, to fight crime. Members of the Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) will patrol areas of Venezuela with the highest crime rates.
The government began implementing the plan on Monday, with 3,000 soldiers patrolling four key areas of Caracas. From next Monday, the plan will be extended to Lara, Zulia, and Carabobo states, and in a third phase, will integrate a further 10,000 soldiers, 9,000 National Bolivarian Police, and 1,500 People’s Guards. The plan is part of the Full Life Mission, which the government launched mid last year.
Venezuelans have long perceived crime as one of the most urgent issues the country faces, and both Nicolas Maduro and Henrique Capriles made promises and campaigned around the issue in the lead up to the 14 April presidential elections.
“We began the deployment yesterday, we were in Petare, and we saw that the people had high expectations, that it was really positive when they saw their army arrive in their streets, on the corners… to integrate itself with the people, with the hope that we can immediately address the issue of security,” said Miguel Rodriguez, minister for justice and internal affairs.
Rodriguez said that he “heard” taxi and motorcycle-taxi organisations say that they would increase their working hours now, as they felt “more tranquil with the presence of armed forces soldiers”.
Coordinator of the plan in El Valle, Caracas, Alfredo Jacobozzi, said there they were implementing it on two fronts; the first with patrols of police and armed forces, and the second with citizen attention points. There, “any denouncement made about crimes will be attended to”.
Luis Karabin, director of the National Bolivarian Police, said that during the first day of implementing the plan in Caracas, two criminal gangs were disbanded, and weapons, drugs, munitions, falsified documents and military uniforms were confiscated.
According to Rodriguez the plan is “designed” to last “around six months”, when armed forces soldiers will be substituted by police offices and the People’s Guard (part of the National Bolivarian Guard – GNB).
Vice-president of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, emphasised that the plan isn’t a “repressive program, nor is it focused on patrols and surveillance, but rather on operations that promote living together, in order to create territories free of violence”.
“Let’s imagine spaces that are full of culture, of happiness, sport, living together, of the democratisation of technology. Let’s imagine these spaces with active grassroots power, with food operations and all sorts of activities that help to guarantee the [right] conditions for peace and for justice,” Arreaza said.
Rodriguez also explained that the “social-political” aspect of the plan will begin next week, with the National Anti-Drugs Office (ONA) helping out. “We know that many people’s memories of the Armed Forces is of how it was under the fourth republic, repressing people, but now the soldiers come from the people and are with the people,” he explained.
Further, Rodriguez also informed that the Venezuelan national executive is checking over municipal and regional police forces to verify that they are applying the new policing model. He said that so far they had identified 14 municipal police forces that will be closed because “they are very far from [applying] the standards established for the new police”.
He said the police forces lacked equipment, and often only functioned as private security for a mayor or governor.
“They are police that have severe problems of organisation, discipline, and crime. For example, with the Miranda police force [run by opposition governor Henrique Capriles], there are no patrols seen anyway. We checked their investment plans, and over the last few years all they bought were five bicycles. I’m not inventing this, they are in the police reports,” Rodriguez said.