I had to read this Associated Press report a couple of times this morning before finally being convinced that it wasn’t satire. (Well, not intentional satire, anyway.) If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the societal collapse of Venezuela under the yoke of socialism, you know that things down there are bad. I mean really bad. We’re talking no running water or medicine bad. People starving to death in the streets bad. Being beaten to death by government goons bad. So the impact on rank and file citizens has been massive and almost uniformly negative.
But there’s one segment of Venezuelan society that’s also hurting but doesn’t get nearly the same level of media attention or foreign aid. Criminals. That’s right… the Associated Press has done a deep dive into how the troubles in that nation have impacted the lives of criminals, and they interviewed a confessed mass murderer for some perspective.
The feared street gangster El Negrito sleeps with a pistol under his pillow and says he’s lost track of his murder count. But despite his hardened demeanor, he’s quick to gripe about how Venezuela’s failing economy is cutting into his profits.
Firing a gun has become a luxury. Bullets are expensive at $1 each. And with less cash circulating on the street, he says robberies just don’t pay like they used to.
For the 24-year-old, that has all given way to a simple fact: Even for Venezuelan criminals it’s become harder to get by.
“If you empty your clip, you’re shooting off $15,” said El Negrito, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition he be identified only by his street name and photographed wearing a hoodie and face mask to avoid attracting unwelcomed attention. “You lose your pistol or the police take it and you’re throwing away $800.”
The AP finds the silver lining in this dark cloud, pointing out that assaults, robberies, murders, and kidnappings are all on the decline these days. The reason? Most people have almost nothing worth stealing, can’t afford to pay ransoms, and the few Bolivars they manage to squirrel away are so worthless as to make not worth the effort to rob them. And as the “feared street gangster El Negrito” points out, have you seen the price of bullets? It’s getting too expensive to shoot people!
Seriously? I understand that reporters tend to dip into all walks of life to get a complete picture of society. But this reporter, Scott Smith, interviewed someone who has confessed to murdering literally more people than he can count. At some point, don’t you take off the journalist hat and drop a dime to the cops? (That’s assuming there are any cops working for Maduro who are still honest enough to care, of course.) Do you really have to offer anonymity and protection to someone who is clearly among the most villainous scum on the continent just for an interview?
So what do we take away from this? Apparently, the country’s fiscal and social collapse is so complete that even the bandits can’t make a living. I’m not sure if that says more about Maduro or some of the people he rules. But we already knew things were circling the drain in Venezuela. I suppose the only actual news here is that being a murderous thug is no longer a recession-proof occupation.