Sunday, February 9, 2014

Venezuela: German Tourist Killed, Other Injured by Gunmen on Margarita Island

According to The Latin American Tribune, a German tourist who arrived on the Venezuelan island of Margarita was gunned down Friday and another was wounded while they being robbed by gunmen, Tourism Minister Andrés Izarra said.

"We deeply regret the incident in which a German tourist died on Margarita. Security forces are searching for the criminals," the Minister said on his Twitter account.

COMMENT: The identities of the German tourists who were touring Margarita in conjunction with their unnamed cruise-ship were not revealed pending notification of next of kin,  according to "Ultimas Noticias."

The two tourists were confronted by two gunmen traveling on a motorcycle in search of victims as they were walking near one of the islands main shopping malls.

Last year (2013), Izarra announced that the government guaranteed that tourists coming into the country would have all the information they needed to enjoy Venezuela's leisure activities while remaining safe from criminal attacks.

The tourism minister's assertion obviously had little foundation.

In September 2013, a Dutch tourist was fatally shot while resisting three gunmen on board his yacht docked at Margarita Island, the second murder of a tourist on the island in two months.

Tragically, as I have said so often in the past, "no amount of material property is worth your life! Resisting armed gunmen can only be described as foolhardy, as being 'outgunned' is a losing proposition."

The integrity of crime statistics in Venezuela have always been suspect as the government of Nicolás Maduro, hand-picked by the late Hugo Chávez, continues to put on a "happy face" as the corrupt and ineffective police force that has been sworn to protect the Socialist country, albeit unsuccessfully. 

In contrast, according to the independent Venezuelan Violence Observatory, close to to 25,000 people were killed in 2013, meaning close to 79 deaths per 100,000 population.

On January 20, 2012 an estimated 30 or 35 Brazilian tourists were robbed in their hotel in Antolin del Campo, Margarita, by a gang of roughly fifteen gunmen.

Starting in October, 2011 the Maduro government installed equipment that requires everyone visiting Margarita Island to electronically register their fingerprints and a picture when entering Margarita Island. 

Seemingly, such a concept did apparently not bear fruit, as the gunmen that attacked the Germans are not in custody. 

Since 2010, there have been four instances of tourist murders. On August 27, 2010 an Italian tourist, Emiliano Astore, was murdered on his boat anchored off Margarita Island in an apparent robbery. Two police officers and a civilian were arrested. A third officer was implicated in the "exploitation of objects" from the crime.

On 18 July 2011, Briton Tom Ossel, 28, was killed resisting seven gunmen who made their way into a backpackers' hostel before they took the guests hostage and raided rooms for valuables.

On March 29, 2011, French tourist Francés Yves Le Bras was murdered in a robbery at the Laguna Mar hotel while he and his wife dined at the Guacuco restaurant.

In March 2011, Belgian tourist Bonne Philippe was murdered while eating in a fast food outlet in Playa El Agua, Margarita. 

The US Department of State has designated Caracas and most other major cities as "Critical" risk on its four-tier threat categorization system of "Critical, High, Medium and Low."

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office warns that street crime in mainland Venezuela is high, and that armed muggings and "express kidnappings" are a common regular occurrences.

Since 1998, there have been ten pirate attacks on or near Margarita Island. Venezuela is now listed as a dangerous region for pirate attacks and in many regions, including between Margarita and Sucre. Yachters should not moor their vessels on Margarita and should operate in convoys. 

Reportedly, in a country of 30 million, six million illegal firearms are in the hands of career criminals.

I continue to urge foreign travelers to AVOID all sections of Venezuela for tourism purposes.

Those who must travel to Venezuela on official business or on business should be advised that their personal security awareness should be their dominant focus.