Venezuela is running out of police to patrol the streets because 75 per cent of officers have deserted, a study from the National Assembly suggests.
Last week President Maduro celebrated the graduation of more than 2,000 officers, but three out of four of them are expected to quit by the end of next year. In the past, it was an attractive job option for Venezuelans from poor neighbourhoods, but as the number of murdered officers has risen the country is struggling to fill its ranks.
More than 300 officers were murdered last year, mainly for their guns. “Many police officers keep their weapons after completing their shifts, for self-defence, but this makes them easy targets for criminals in search of guns,” Carlos Bolívar, a criminologist, said.
New recruits are paid the minimum wage of 22,000 bolívares a month, roughly £16.50 at the black market rate. Even after years of service, their salary does not increase to more than 26,000 bolivares. The allure of good pay has all but gone, and policemen can do little against the tide of violence. Criminals have access to substantial resources and better firepower. Caracas has become the most violent city outside a war zone, with a murder rate of 119 per 100,000 people.
Training standards in the national police academy have fallen and it now takes only six months to graduate, but of the 1,500 students who started the course last year, 200 completed it.