Violence and Revolution in Venezuela: David Smilde and Rebecca Hanson in NACLA

The most recent issue of NACLA focuses on Prisons, Punishment and Policing in the Americas and includes an article by me and a roundtable moderated by Rebecca Hanson on violence and public policy in Venezuela.

My piece is a first crack at the introduction to the book project coordinated by Verónica, Becca and myself. In it I argue against the typical explanations that are trotted out to explain the surge in crime during Chavismo: Hugo Chávez’s violent rhetoric, a moral decline, “anomie” (normlessness), or drug trafficking. I blame instead the institutional weakness and disruption caused by: a surge in oil income, a revolutionary form of governance, and militarized policing.

Becca’s roundtable digs in further. Verónica Zubillaga looks at the heterogenization of violence in recent years. Andrés Antillano discusses the “leftist functionalism” that long guided Chavismo’s public security policy. And Keymer Ávila describes the extension of a war discourse to the government’s approach to crime. All three of them point to militarized policing initiatives such as the Operación Liberación del Pueblo as a motor of violence in the current context.

(NACLA editor-in-chief Alejandro Velasco has graciously allowed us to post the PDFs of these two articles in the hyperlinks above. But visit the page itself and subscribe like I did, if you want to see all of the articles. Now more than ever it is important to support progressive publications.)