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Maduro urges coordination to tackle crime

the handshake. Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro (left) shakes hands with opposition leader and Governor of Miranda state Henrique Capriles, after months of fierce squabbling, during a meeting with mayors and governors at Miraflores Palace in Caracas yesterday. The gesture came after police in Venezuela said on Tuesday robbers shot and killed former Miss Venezuela Mónica Spear and her former hu

Potential political thaw as president, Capriles shake hands for the first time in months

CARACAS — Following continued commotion in Venezuela over the murder of former Miss Venezuela Mónica Spear and her husband on Monday night, along with another double murder of an university professor and his mother on Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro yesterday hosted a meeting of governors and mayors of all political stripes to “build” a new “model that truly tackles the complicated problem of violent crime.”

Recognizing that violent crime is on a “dangerous up-tick” in the last few months, Maduro spoke for over an hour at the Miraflores presidential palace before the assembled governors and 79 mayors representing the most crime-ridden Venezuelan municipalities.

Among the audience was Miranda governor and opposition leader Henrique Capriles, whom Maduro greeted with a handshake, the first between the two bitter rivals in just under a year. Maduro took the time to greet Capriles as he entered the room, which is noteworty as all of the attendees had already been greeted by Vice-President Arreaza.

Maduro stated on live television that “the massacre of Mónica Spear and her husband is a slap for all of us; I fully recognize my responsibilities,” before adding that “this isn’t the time to grow faint, to throw in the towel, to drop the defences, and if there is a lesson to be drawn here, is that this is a matter that we must work on with greater coordination, with greater efficiency.”

Among other measures, Maduro proposed “a single vision, a single perspectve and a single capacity” instead of a system that is disaggregated among municipalities and states. This call for coordination was accompanied by Maduro’s desire to draw up a “national pacification plan” that would lead to the disarmament of criminal groups and the incorporation of their members into the formal workforce. “Firearms should only be in the possession of the armed forces and the police,” underlined Maduro, who promised no leniency for those who do not abandon crime.

The president then went on to announce that he had named General Manuel Pérez Urdaneta as the new director of the National Police and former Táchira governor Ronald José Blanco as dean of the National Experimental Security University (Universidad Nacional Experimental de la Seguridad, UNES). The UNES is responsible for the training and professional development of Venezuelan civil servants working in departments with a security mandate, such as the police, corrections and search and rescue departments.

Nascent cooperation

The fact that Maduro and Capriles called a cease-fire to their mutual hostilities for at least a short while is particularly noteworthy given their bitter exchanges throughout the last 12 months. Maduro routinely calls Capriles a “fascist” and “murderer”, while the opposition leader has been lambasting his rival as “incompetent” and “illegitimate” since Maduro won April’s disputed election by 1.5 percentage points.

Capriles has still not publicly recognized Maduro’s presidency, though his allegations of fraud have run out of steam in the courts. Maduro had previously said anyone who did not acknowledge his leadership would not be allowed into Miraflores. But he has been showing a more reconciliatory attitude to the opposition since opinion polls in December shored up his standing.

“This cannot be just another meeting,” said Maduro, whose predecessor Hugo Chávez also began a dozen or so anti-crime initiatives that failed to stop murders and kidnappings rising during his 14-year rule.

“Time and again, people have used this subject for political manipulation,” Maduro said. “It’s a very small minority that doesn’t realize this is a national problem, a serious problem that became endemic 40-50 years ago.”

It now remains to be seen if the new impulse and groundswell generated by this horrific crime can ensure that at least on the matter of crime Venezuela’s two poles can cooperate for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.

Herald with Télam, Reuters

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