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How Do Police Die in Venezuela? A Comprehensive Analysis of the Death by Homicide of State Security Force/Policing Officials

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Policing & Firearms


This chapter investigates intentional homicides, which occurred in Venezuela during 2016, where the victims were State security force/policing personnel. Its objective is to understand key characteristics of these incidents across the country. The results of the analysis from a previous investigation of officer homicide cases that occurred in the Caracas Metropolitan Area (AMC) during 2013 serve as background to contrast the results observed in the same area in 2016. The general characteristics of the AMC cases are then juxtaposed with those of the rest of the country. Among the main findings are that most police victims of homicide were not on duty, not in uniform and not identifiable as officers at the time of the incident. While they typically carried their firearms, this did not save their lives; on the contrary, on occasions it heightened the risk of the situation. The empirical evidence found largely contradicts dominant media and political discourse regarding the deaths of State security force officials.

An earlier version of this research was published in Spanish in Misión Jurídica, Revista de Derecho y Ciencias Sociales, No. 15, 2018. This research was supported by the Network of Activism and Research for Coexistence (REACIN).

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  1. 1.

    The AMC comprises the Libertador municipality of the Capital District, together with the Sucre, Baruta, Chacao and Hatillo municipalities of the Miranda State. Traditionally, the AMC has one of the highest homicide rates in Venezuela (Ávila, 2016).

  2. 2.

    In early 2014 a project to investigate intentional homicides in Venezuela was presented to the Ministry of the Interior and Justice (MIJ), through the General Police Council (CGP). The first phase of the project was to investigate AMC homicides. The Minister understood the importance of the project and authorised the study, to begin by the end of March 2014. Various changes to/by authorities impeded the progress and continuity of the project. Consequently, all the data collected was handed to the CGP, and the processing and analysis was then carried out independently. It was partially presented in research published in 2016 (Ávila, 2016). The person who held the position of Minister of the Interior is currently an important political prisoner in the country.

  3. 3.

    In December 2019, President Maduro claimed that the number of militia personnel amounted to 3,300,000 (see

  4. 4.

    A populist and conservative right political movement led by Álvaro Uribe Vélez, President of Colombia between 2002 and 2010

  5. 5.

    State security force officials include the police forces within Venezuela’s three territorial political levels (municipal, state and national, comprising both preventive and investigative functions, military officials as well as those who provide protective services within public organizations).

  6. 6.

    Although the intention is not to produce a longitudinal analysis because the sources of information are different, in the Capital District there was a 30% increase in the number of cases in 2016 compared to 2013. According to Fundepro (2017), who sets out a more comprehensive account which includes security guards and private bodyguards, in recent years there has been an increasing trend in these homicide cases across Venezuela.

  7. 7.

    It is understood, for instance, that the number of cases known to the State security forces that reach the media is between 20% and 30% of those known to the Criminal Justice System. This is confirmed by figures on this type of cases provided by the Public Ministry between 2000 and 2007 and contrasted with those reported by the Venezuelan Education-Action Program on Human Rights (PROVEA) for the same period (Ávila, 2016: 44).

  8. 8.

    Parishes are a function and structure of local government, and there are a total of 1146 parishes across Venezuela and 32 in the AMC.

  9. 9.

    Thus, for example, in CICPC data, the AMC 4-year average represents 18% of total cases, while in 2016 news media monitoring reached 33%. In the cases under scrutiny, between 2012 and 2015, the CICPC learnt of an average of 362 cases per year of State security forces officials who were victims of homicide. The 2016 news media monitoring registered 264 cases, this would represent approximately 73% of cases. As emphasised previously, the objective of this study is not to indicate if the phenomenon under study has increased or not, since the sources to arrive to such conclusion are not the same.

  10. 10.

    These results also correlate with overall homicide victimization. According to the National Survey of Victimization and Police Perception, 94% of homicides occur at night (49.7%) and the early morning (44.4%) (INE-CONAREPOL, 2006). This is confirmed in the National Survey of Victimization and Police Perception of Citizen Security 2009, with 72% of incidents occurring at night or dawn (41.12% and 30.38%, respectively) (INE, 2010).

  11. 11.

    63% of total cases

  12. 12.

    This contrast is much clearer when the AMC data is excluded from that of the country; in this case the first place would be occupied by the state police with 28% of cases, followed by the GNB with 21%, the municipal police with 17% and the GNP with 15%.

  13. 13.

    The percentages decrease even more when the AMC is excluded: 59% were not on duty, 55% were not in uniform, and 51% were not identified as an official. This denotes the weight that the AMC has within this variable.

  14. 14.

    In 37% of the cases, no information was found.

  15. 15.

    The percentage in the study of 2013 AMC dossiers, which offered much more information, reached 25%.

  16. 16.

    Between April and June 2015, the Minister of the Interior made the following claims: “We have evidence that the recent acts in which our police officers have lost their lives are part of a perverse plan”. “It is no coincidence: paramilitarism persists in the Sucre, Baruta and Chacao municipalities, the most violent in the country in the misgoverned Miranda State [Municipalities and State governed by the opposition]”. “The Yellow Mafia while playing politics, maintains pacts with criminals and with the paracos sent by Álvaro Uribe”. “The political fund it seeks is selective, progressive and staggered (... ) I dare to say that I have proof and well-guarded why its political use is perverse” (González, 2015). For more details on this rhetoric and its alleged link with the victimization of officials of the security forces in Venezuela, see Ávila (2016: 27-28; 45–46 and 54).

  17. 17.

    In this study the average age was about 4 years older than that of 2013, possibly this is because in the news media 51% of cases did not have this information; on the other hand, in the dossiers this percentage was reduced at 8%. In the 2013 dossiers, the percentage of identified perpetrators reached 80%.

  18. 18.

    139 perpetrators were identified corresponding to approximately 76 of the cases analyzed (29%).

  19. 19.

    There were only two minors under the age of 17, representing only 1% of the cases.

  20. 20.

    This confirms the findings of Del Olmo (1990) who in the mid-1980s described how at least 20% of deceased officials in Caracas were victimized by fellow officers.

  21. 21.

    This issue has been reported by the media, but there is no known academic research on this problem. According to the media, the use of grenades seems to have increased during the last 4 years. The main hypothesis is that it is about irregular businesses of military officials. During 2015, 29 of the reported cases had the purpose of “attacking or intimidating the officials of a security body” (Mayorca, 2015). In 2016 there were about 20 attacks of this type, not necessarily with fatalities (Fundepro, 2017).

  22. 22.

    The 2016 data also indicated that in at least 8% of the cases the situation that eventually led to a fatal outcome was unrelated to policing per se, but reflected issues of another nature: including discussions, fights, retaliation, previous conflicts, etc. By contrast, within the police files analysed for the deaths in 2013, this figure was 39%.

  23. 23.

    In 2016, weapons represented 59% of the objects taken from officials; this result was similar to the 2013 study (54%).

  24. 24.

    For an ethnographic approach regarding possible justifications that the perpetrators could give in this type of cases, see Antillano and Ávila (2017).

  25. 25.

    If the population density of these states is also considered, the situation may be perceived with greater gravity. As noted in the corresponding section, these three states are among the eight states with the highest rates of police homicide victims in the country.

  26. 26.

    This in some way coincides with the inverse analysis made by PROVEA (2016); according to this organization, more than 86% of the cases of deaths at the hands of the security forces are executions.

  27. 27.

    He could also be a municipal or State police officer.


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The editors thank Diego Ernesto Mendez Osorio for his work in translating this chapter from Spanish into English, and acknowledge the funding provided by Deakin University.

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Ávila, K. (2023). How Do Police Die in Venezuela? A Comprehensive Analysis of the Death by Homicide of State Security Force/Policing Officials. In: Farmer, C., Evans, R. (eds) Policing & Firearms. Springer, Cham.

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