It should be noted that Ms. Berendique was the daughter of Fernando Berendique, Chile's honorary consul in Maracaibo. It is unknown whether Ms. Berendique, her bother and their friend were traveling in a consular vehicle
COMMENT: Given the fact that the checkpoint was not identified as a police checkpoint, the trio decided to run the checkpoint, realizing that gunmen frequently set up such checkpoints nationwide.
As a result of the incident, twelve police officers have been detained and are under investigation. On Sunday (March 18), radio program host Beatriz Navas drew attention to the increasing human carnage attributed to Venezuelan cops, who are, in my view, the worst in Latin America, excluding México.
During her broadcast, Ms. Navas was quoted as saying, "I wouldn't have stopped and they would have killed me, too," Navas said. "The problem is that we don't believe in the police."
According to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, an organization that tracks crime nationwide, police homicides in 2011 totaled 19,000. Roberto Briceno León, the group's director, said that that was the highest annual number on record in the country of 29 million people.
Although President Hugo Chavez's government expressed condolences to the Berendique Family, as well as to the Chilean government, and pledged that those responsible will face justice, I will personally be following this case and updating our readers accordingly.
From all indications, the police at the unmarked checkpoint engaged in no warning that it was a police checkpoint, nor did they have their emergency lights illuminated to demonstrate that it was an official checkpoint. To demonstrate the lack of restraint on the part of the police, Ms. Berendique was shot three times, including once in the head. The vehicle itself was hit by six rounds.
Now, here's the interesting part: After Ms. Berendique was killed, judicial police chief José Humberto Ramirez said, "We reject and repudiate this type of bad police practice." Hence, the begging question is why are unmarked police checkpoints being used when most Venezuelans know full well that this a tactic used by gunmen and carjackers?
As many of our readers know, Venezuela undertook the massive effort to turn the national police structure upside down in 2009, largely because roughly 15-20% of all crimes in Venezuela are committed by active duty cops. Unfortunately, this is a process that could easily take 15 years.
Unlike police rules of engagement in most countries, it has become common practice in Venezuela for police to shoot first and ask questions later.
In an unrelated incident in November, Chile's consul in Caracas was the victim of an "express kidnapping," and was released by his captors two hours later after a ransom payment was paid. The consul was also shot and wounded during the ordeal.