Venezuela rated least safe country in the world for second year in a row

Latin American country virtually tied with Afghanistan in security rankings

Emily Shugerman
New York
Thursday 07 June 2018 22:15 BST
Carrying a giant Venezuelan flag, thousands of anti-government protesters march during a mass demonstration
Carrying a giant Venezuelan flag, thousands of anti-government protesters march during a mass demonstration (John Moore/Getty Images)

Venezuela has been named the least secure country in the world for the second year in a row, as the once-prosperous country struggles to recover from the worst economic crisis in its history.

The Latin American nation scored the lowest on measures of security – and highest on measures of crime – of all 142 countries surveyed in the 2017 Gallup report on global law and order. The ranking put it just under war-torn Afghanistan, making it the least-safe country for two years straight.

Venezuelans were more likely to say they had been robbed in the last year than residents of any other country besides Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Uganda, according to Gallup. They were also significantly less likely to express confidence in the police, and to feel safe walking home at night, than the world on average.

Crimes rates increased in Venezuela over the last year, according to the report. In 2016, 38 per cent of residents said they had property or money stolen in the last year – a record high. In 2017, more than 40 per cent of Venezuelans said as much.

The increase in theft is likely due to the shortage of food, medicine, and other basic supplies ravaging the country during its economic crisis, said Jason Marczak, director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

“The extent of the economic crisis has contributed to an environment in which it is every person for themselves,” Mr Marczak told The Independent. “...Part of this is the lack of availability of basic goods to survive on a daily basis.”

The economic crisis started around 2012, when the price of oil – Venezuela’s main export – dropped significantly. The government was forced to cut back on popular public programmes, and inflation began to soar. The country’s inflation rate is now the highest in the world.

The crisis has contributed to a lower sense of security overall. According to Gallup, less than a quarter of Venezuelans expressed confidence in the police in 2017, while just 17 per cent residents said they felt safe walking alone at night.

Mr Marczack said he wasn’t surprised by the low level of trust in police. Many residents blame the government for the current economic crisis, he said, creating a lack of trust in government institutions in general.

He added that policing in many areas of the country had effectively been turned over to criminal gangs.

“It’s an environment of lawlessness and many parts of the country,” he said.

Opposition protesters clash with security forces in Venezuela

But Venezuela was not the only country in the region to report problems with security. Latin America was home to five of the 10 countries where people were least likely to feel safe walking home alone at night, according to Gallup. Nearly half of the countries where less than half of the population expressed confidence in their local police were in Latin America.

The rankings were determined by in-person and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 subjects in all 142 countries and areas. The top countries on the list included Singapore, Norway, Iceland and Finland.

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