In 2011 Joel Rengifo, former head of Venezuela’s investigative anti-kidnapping division within the country’s police force, told the Scotsmen that police were responsible for eight out of ten kidnappings in the capital city of Caracas.
Prior to President Chavez’s 1998 Bolivarian Revolution, there were few registered kidnappings in Venezuela. Of those which did occur the vast majority were carried out in the border region with Colombia, snatched by Colombia’s Marxist rebels. Since kidnappings have dropped away in Colombia they are an endemic problem in Venezuela.
In 2013 President Nicolas Maduro launched operation “Safe Homeland” in which 3,000 soldiers began to patrol the streets of the capital Caracas and other cities in response to a crime rate that year which saw up to 48 kidnappings every day. In December 2013 Transparency International named the country as the most corrupt country in Latin America. According to other reports there is one firearm in circulation for every two citizens, making it the most weaponised environment on earth. This week the country’s beauty queen winner Mónica Spear was gunned down in her car with her husband. Unlike the majority of murders here – where more than 90% remain unsolved – this death made major headlines. It is true that the countries corruption and crime rates have been discussed and covered numerous times before, but never before has one single event put it so much into focus for the wider world.
Two things transcend the various strata of Venezuelan society; Beauty and Crime. While businesses, families and groups of friends put aside cash so they can be ready to pay the ransom of an abducted colleague or relative, at the same time, many young girls will deliberately place their family in debt just to undergo cosmic surgery. All this is done in an attempt to emulate the success of the beauty queens they see on TV, embarking on a futile effort to emulate the ‘white, European ideal’ of beauty. Nearly every single Venezuelan beauty queen has ‘European’ physical features.
Seven people have been arrested by authorities in the Monica Spear case who, given the worldwide attention, appear to be pursuing the investigation thoroughly. For many of the unfortunate 90% who have likely been since forgotten by all except their families, their aspiring notions of perfect western beauty seemingly were not good enough to earn the attention of our western celebrity obsessed societies.
Apart from the countries spiralling crime rate all the death of Monica Spears tells us is Venezuela is as obsessed with beauty as us.