Chavism and Criminal Policy in Venezuela, 1999-2014
For a long time, the Venezuelan democracy was an exception in South America due to a party system that was based on what was known as the ‘Punto Fijo Pact’. At the start of the 1980s a series of economic, social and political events began to occur, which caused this ‘exceptionalism’ to stagger and disrupt the institutionality of the traditional Venezuelan democratic State. The events led to a deep national crisis and the birth of a new political era. By the end of the 1990s, there had been a significant shift towards left-wing governance. Hugo Chávez Frías subsequently won the presidential elections in 1998. This paper analyzes some aspects of the criminal policies that were implemented during the reign of left-wing leader Chávez till his death in 2013 and thereafter by Chavist party president elect, Nicolás Maduro during 2013-2014. Four stages can be identified in the behavior of incarceration rates. The first stage, from 1999 to 2000, was characterized by the lowest recordings of incarceration rates and the lowest measured percentage of preventive detention in Venezuela in thirty years. The second stage, from 2001 to 2005, saw a slight increase in the incarceration rate which then remained stable. The third stage, from 2006 to 2012, and the fourth stage, from 2013 to 2014, are characterized by sustained increases in preventive detention, incarceration and murder rates.
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