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Black Market Bullets Are Killing Venezuelans

Venezuelan National Police stand guard outside an appliance store in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.  President Nicolas Maduro in recent days ordered the military to take over appliance stores, slashing prices, leading bargain hunters to form block-long lines across the country. The populist measures seem designed to help Maduro's party get over the hump of next month's mayoral vote, its first electoral test since the president narrowly defeated opposition leader Henrique Capriles in April. But while the measures apparently are popular with voters, Maduro runs the risk of cannibalizing an already damaged economy. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuelan National Police stand guard outside an appliance store in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

 

(Bloomberg) — The Venezuelan military’s failure to comply with bullet coding laws is fueling the world’s second-highest murder rate and enriching black market speculators, according to lawmakers, police officers and activists.

Almost two years after President Nicolas Maduro ordered Cavim, the army-owned munitions company, to code bullets according to intended users among the police, military and sports shooters, the company has yet to comply. That means security forces have no way of tracing who is selling ammunition to the country’s armed gangs.

“Nothing has been done,” said Yoryi Carvajal, police commissioner for the Chacao borough of Caracas, who oversees 870 armed officers. “The bullets we get from the government are as plain as ever,” he said in an interview in his office Feb. 24.

The military’s refusal to mark the bullets, even after an estimated 25,000 murders in Venezuela last year, shows where the power lies in a country where officers run the economy, defense and food ministries, said Jose Guzman Perez, a visiting political science professor at the University of Miami. Ammunition made by Cavim accounts for about 70 percent of all gun murders in the country, according to the non-profit organization Venezuelan Violence Observatory.

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