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Venezuelans feel less safe at home than Syrians

A woman holding a baby looks at police in riot gear standing guard as she and others wait outside a supermarket to buy food in Caracas, Venezuela in this June 1, 2016 file photo. A new Gallup polls found that citizens in Venezuela feel less safe in their country than citizens in Syria.
A woman holding a baby looks at police in riot gear standing guard as she and others wait outside a supermarket to buy food in Caracas, Venezuela in this June 1, 2016 file photo. A new Gallup polls found that citizens in Venezuela feel less safe in their country than citizens in Syria. AP

Venezuelans feel less safe in their home country than civilians living in war-torn Syria, according to a new Gallup poll.

Just 14 percent of Venezuelans said they feel safe in the country, compared with 32 percent of Syrian respondents who feel safe, according to the 2016 Global Law and Order Report.

“Venezuela has become a society that is just breaking down,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Washington-based Council of the Americas.

It may be hard to believe that 30 million Venezuelans living on the world’s largest oil reserves could perceive themselves to be in greater danger than people living in Syria, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have died in a bloody civil war. But the poll results reflect the concerns many have about Venezuela’s deteriorating conditions and rising homicides.

The findings are based on interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in 133 countries last year. The scores are based on people’s confidence in local police, and their feelings about personal safety and theft incidents. Venezuela posted not only the lowest score, but also the worst score Gallup has recorded in over a decade.

Like Syria, Afghanistan also scored 32 percent, followed by Gabon (35 percent), El Salvador (36 percent) and Dominican Republic (36 percent.)

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have signed a petition to try to force the ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The Colombian border has been inundated with hungry Venezuelans searching for food that can’t be found in their country. Doctors are desperate for needed medicines.

Residents in Caracas have taken to the streets and to social media to call for help feeding hungry children and protecting their families against armed gangs.

In Syria, the five-year civil war has taken the greatest toll on the feelings of safety. In 2009, 84 percent of Syrian adults said they felt safe walking alone at night; by 2013, the number had dropped to 33 percent.

There has always been crime and insecurity in Caracas. And Venezuela has been known to post low scores in the annual global security poll.

“The crime situation in Venezuela was not born out of the current crisis, but it compounds it because high crime rates negatively affect economic performance,” Julie Ray wrote in a Gallup analysis of the findings.

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