Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior gave out his cellphone number on national TV this weekend and urged new police recruits to personally call him to denounce corrupt cops.
This unusual, and perhaps desperate step to control violence in the country, came just a few days after the murder of a former beauty queen angered Venezuelans and filled newspapers with stories about the country’s sky-rocketing homicide rates.
“New policemen will always find brilliant superiors…but they will also find superiors with vices,” Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said in a nationally televised speech in which he appointed a new director to the country’s National Police.
“Denounce [corrupt cops] without fear…and we will immediately tear off the head of any immoral superior,” Rodriguez said before reading aloud his personal cellphone number.
The minister will probably not be tearing anyone’s head off. [Venezuela’s constitution prohibits the death penalty, in any case].
But security experts agree that Venezuela’s high crime rates could be lowered if its police forces were more efficient and less corrupt.
Over the past decade, Venezuela has consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception’s Index, ranking 160th out of 177 countries in 2013.
In a more detailed Transparency International survey taken in 2010, called the Global Corruption Barometer, Venezuelans ranked the police as the most corrupt institution in that country.
Critics of the Venezuelan government say that in order to improve how police operate, the government must not just go after corrupt cops. It also has to change its hiring practices.
Thor Halvorssen, from the Human Rights Foundation, argues that Venezuela’s government hires and promotes officers according to their political allegiance to the government and its “Bolivarian revolution,” overlooking more important things like how officers are performing against criminal groups.
“In Venezuela, debate and discussion is not what the government is interested in, they want only loyalty,” Halvorssen told Fusion last week. “So if you have a police force it’s not about only doing your job it’s about being a revolutionary.”