What are worst possible government policies in a nominally democratic country? Number one, you surge forward with socialist policies that wreck havoc on the market economy and get citizens more dependent on direct subsidies, a strategy sure to hurt everyone in the country in the long term. And second you tell the police to tread lightly and not do their jobs. This is particularly a bad thing to do in areas known to have high crime rates. In these areas, the police sometimes serve as the only force holding back a tidal wave of crime and brutality.
So Hugo Chávez, the blowhard president of Venezuela, has managed to combine these worst of policies. Unfortunately, in a country of vast inequality and a impoverished majority, he has managed to win votes with these policies:
CARACAS, Venezuela, Dec. 1 — Walk into an emergency room in many poor parts of this booming, oil-rich nation on a weekend night and you will be overwhelmed — victims of gunshot wounds and drunken clashes line the corridors. Homicides are up 67 percent since 1999, and violent crime is the top concern of Venezuela’s voters as they head to the polls on Sunday.
Yet the man in charge since then, President Hugo Chávez, rarely addresses the problem publicly and is sailing toward an easy election for a third time. Analysts say Mr. Chávez is able to ignore the issue by governing through a system of extensive handouts that eases the purchase of basic goods but does little to ensure public order.
… Analysts say police forces have also largely been urged to tread lightly in poor neighborhoods, turning a blind eye to small demonstrations and petty crime like burning tires. Critics say it is part of Mr. Chávez’s efforts to maintain support in poor neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, crime has exploded. According to human rights groups and a Unesco study, Venezuela has the highest rate of gun-related deaths of 57 countries surveyed — far surpassing Brazil, one of the most violent nations in Latin America.