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LATIN AMERICA | 22-09-2018 11:26

Venezuela murder toll worse than some war zones

Amnesty International hit out on Thursday at the repression by Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela, saying that more people were murdered in the country than in some war zones.

Opponents have accused Maduro’s regime of the authoritarian oppression of any dissident voices during a four-year recession that has left 87 percent of the population living in poverty, according to a group of leading universities.

Amnesty International’s new report, Venezuela: This is no way to live, highlighted violence carried out by security forces during operations against criminals in impoverished neighbourhoods of Venezuela’s biggest cities.

Investigators found that “8,292 extrajudicial executions took place in the last two years between 2015 and 2017,” with “4,667 (22 percent) of the homicides in 2016” carried out by security officials.

“State officials, adopting military methods, use force in an abusive and excessive manner, in some cases intentionally killing during security operations,” the human rights organisation said in a statement.

“In cases documented by AI, victims were unarmed. Autopsies revealed bullet wounds in the neck, throat, head. They were killed while on their knees or lying down,” said Esteban Beltran, director of Amnesty International Spain. “The number of murders in Venezuela is greater than those in many countries at war.”

Venezuela’s murder rate is 89 per 100,000 inhabitants, three times more than crime-wracked neighbour Brazil, said Mariana Fontoura Marques, director of international justice policy at Amnesty International Argentina.

Insecurity “was one of the major reasons Venezuelans gave for leaving the country,” she added.

Food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation the IMF says will reach one million percent this year have also contributed to the mass exodus. The UNsays some 1.6 million people have left Venezuela since 2015, heaping pressure on several nearby countries struggling to deal with a mass influx of migrants.

“When analysing the state’s response to the crisis of violence in Venezuela, Amnesty International, in addition to identifying different flaws in government policies, is extremely concerned at the authorities’ support for the intentionally lethal use of force and extrajudicial executions targeting mostly young men living in poverty,” the report’s authors wrote in their conclusion.

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