LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: An actor dressed as Spiderman poses for a photo at the London Super Comic Convention at the ExCeL Centre on February 23, 2013 in London, England. Enthusiasts at the Comic Convention are encouraged to wear a costume of their favourite comic character and flock to the ExCeL to gather all the latest news in the world of comics, manga, anime, film, cosplay, games and cult fiction. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)2013 Getty Images
Your friendly neighborhood Spiderman may actually be aiding and abetting crime instead of fighting it, if you believe Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
After watching Spiderman 3, the Bolivarian leader decided that Spidey - along with his superhero brethren like Batman and Wonder Woman – were part of the “anti-values” factory that encourages violence among Venezuela’s youth.
“This kid, at 14 years old, carries a 9mm with a mind filled by thousands of hours of shows where people are killed,” Maduro said, according to the Bolivian newspaper La Opinión. “I start to think how many thousands of hours of violence that kid will have consumed, in the end, stimulated by consumerism and violence when he grabs a 9 mm and goes to kill.”
Maduro has been struggling with a soaring violent crime rate that he adopted from his mentor and processor, the late socialist leader Hugo Chávez. According to government figures, in 2012 there were more than 16,000 murders and the first quarter of 2013 killings totaled 3,400 – making the country one of the most dangerous in Latin America.
The murder rate doubled during Chavez’s 14-year-rule as cheap access to guns and an ineffective justice system fed a culture of violence in slums like Petare, parts of which have become no-go zones for outsiders. Chávez banned gun sales, expanded a new national police force and stepped up policing and other programs in high-crime areas.
In May, Maduro deployed 3,000 troops on the streets, starting in the Caracas area and expanding to the states of Zulia, Lara and Carabobo.
While Maduro’s recent comments may seem odd, the Venezuelan leader is known for making bold pronouncements and claims. He recently ordered state television to play the Tom Hanks film “The Terminal” when NSA leaker Edward Snowden was stranded in Moscow's airport. After meeting a man who looked like Malcolm X, Maduro had state television play Spike’s Lee’s biopic on the civil rights leader.
Besides his love for cultural references, Maduro has also claimed that the spirit of Chávez has come and spoken to him through a bird.
The bird, which purportedly also visited Maduro in April while he was on the campaign trail, told the Venezuelan president that it was happy with the way Maduro was running the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.