June 11, 2012: Chavez waves to the crowd while riding atop a truck upon his arrival to the elections office in Caracas, Venezuela. Chavez rallied thousands of his supporters wearing his signature red beret and blowing kisses to the crowd as he formalized his presidential candidacy and launched his re-election bid.AP
Caracas – Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez launched a new "great mission" to counter Venezuela's soaring violence rate less than four months ahead of the elections in which he is seeking another six-year term.
In a nationally broadcast address from the presidential palace, Chávez presented a six-point plan that will kick off after the elections with a series of programs that will include establishing municipal courts and strengthening law enforcement agencies.
The president made an almost three-hour presentation of the plan, but provided no details on how many victims of violence there have been in the country and accused the opposition of exploiting the issue of crime for political gain.
"Just as we in the government must acknowledge that this is a grave problem, an unquestionable problem, we must also say that the Venezuelan right's anti-ethical, politicking use of this problem is equally unquestionable," he said.
Chávez said that in the 1980s Latin America's criminal violence doubled and in the following decade it as much as quadrupled, "and that includes Venezuela."
In that context, he cited a 2011 United Nations study which found that "among the 10 countries with the highest homicide rates in the world, eight are in Latin America."
"And Venezuela is one of them, the fifth," he said.
With the official homicide rate at 48 for every 100,000 inhabitants in a country of 28.9 million people, Chávez said that his strategy will be based on prevention and on strengthening security forces.
He also mentioned the transforming of the judicial system and the creation of alternative mechanisms to resolve conflicts, modernizing the penitentiary system and providing aid for the victims of violence.
He said that 400 judges have already been trained and are "ready to go and create" municipal courts "together with the people."
He said that these courts will begin hearing cases on Jan. 1 in 79 municipalities "where more than 80 percent of the crime is concentrated," though he speculated on the possibility of bringing that date forward.
In his extensive review of the problem, Chávez blamed the high number of murders on the macho culture of violence in poor neighborhoods and on alcoholism, among other causes.
He also said that during the decentralization of the 1990s, "many police forces came to be led...by real mafias."
Before the president presented the program, opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles blasted Chávez for introducing his plan just a few months before the Oct. 7 elections.
"The government has launched 18 security plans and all have been complete flops. But the elections are looming so today he's launching another one!" Capriles tweeted on Twitter.
Last December the independent Venezuelan Violence Observatory pointed to 2011 as "the most violent year in the history" of the Andean nation, with 19,336 people murdered.