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Civilians feel less safe in Venezuela than in war-torn Syria, poll finds

Police blocking the streets near a protest in Caracas last year. (Credit: Carlos Díaz/Flickr)

People surveyed in Venezuela and El Salvador report feeling more insecure and unsafe than many people living in places like Syria, Afghanistan and other more high-profile conflict-ridden nations.

The findings, revealed in a recent report by the American polling organization Galluphighlight the dismal state of affairs in Venezuela and El Salvador – as well as the Latin American region overall – which has achieved the dubious milestone of being ranked the world’s least safe region for the seventh year in a row.

“As Venezuela edged closer to collapse in 2015, the country’s score on Gallup’s Law and Order Index – its annual global gauge of people’s sense of security – dropped to a new record low of 35 out of 100,” reads an analysis on Gallup’s website.

The Law and Order Index is the result of a poll with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted throughout 2015 in 133 countries. The higher the score on the index, the greater the proportion of the population reports feeling safe.

Venezuela’s score was not only the worst in the world last year, as Gallup’s analysis points out, but also the worst score Gallup has recorded for any country in the past decade. On the same index, El Salvador – which became the most homicidal country in the world last year with a murder rate of over 100 per 100,000 residents – ranked second worst worldwide. Peru and Syria tied for third worst in the world with an index score of 50.

As Gallup’s analysis adds, Venezuela is no stranger to the bottom of the list. Venezuela had the world’s lowest score in 2013, the second worst in 2014 and the worst in 2015 as the country tumbled into deep economic recession and political turmoil.

Credit: Gallup 2016 Law and Order Report

Credit: Gallup 2016 Law and Order Report

Additional measures in the Gallup poll found that only 19 percent of Venezuelans express confidence in their police. And only 14 percent of Venezuelans feel safe walking alone at night where they live – compared to war-torn Syria and Afghanistan, which are next on this list, with 32 percent each. Of the bottom 10 countries worldwide for feeling safe at night, six were in Latin America or the Caribbean.

“Both percentages are not only new lows for Venezuela,” Gallup’s analysis reads, “but they are also the lowest scores Gallup has measured worldwide since 2005.”

Credit: Gallup 2016 Law and Order Report

Credit: Gallup 2016 Law and Order Report

Venezuela’s low ranking by its own citizens reflects the severe economic and political turmoil plaguing the country – citizens are suffering through shortages of food and other basic goods, and multinational corporations are leaving the country. Economically and quite literally, the country is at a standstill, as its citizens wait in long lines to buy food, medicine, and other necessary goods that they sometimes need to leave the country to find.

But the crime situation and growing sense of insecurity in Venezuela is not a result of the current crisis. The country has dealt with high rates of homicide and other crimes for years. Although Venezuela’s government boasts the achievements of a militarized security operation that began last year, many experts say it hasn’t reduced crime but instead has generated a greater number of human rights abuses.

It is difficult to determine the exact state of the country’s security problem, since the government routinely withholds data on crime indicators. But many experts maintain that the security situation is indeed worsening, and as Venezuela’s high crime rates negatively affect economic performance, the country will find it more difficult to find its way out of the current crisis.


About Author

Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Madrid-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau, email or see her latest work at