Crime and Violence in Venezuela

March 8, 2024 - 5:00 pm

Skylight Room
The Graduate Center, CUNY

Crime and violence soared in twenty-first-century Venezuela even as poverty and inequality decreased, contradicting the conventional wisdom that these are the underlying causes of violence. The Paradox of Violence in Venezuela explains the rise of violence under both Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro—leftist presidents who made considerable investment in social programs and political inclusion. Contributors argue that violence arose not from the frustration of inequality, or the needs created by poverty, but rather from the interrelated factors of a particular type of revolutionary governance, extraordinary oil revenues, a reliance on militarized policing, and the persistence of concentrated disadvantage. These factors led to dramatic but unequal economic growth, massive institutional and social change, and dysfunctional criminal justice policies that destabilized illicit markets and social networks, leading to an increase in violent conflict resolution. The Paradox of Violence in Venezuela reorients thinking about violence and its relationship to poverty, inequality, and the state.


Rebecca Hanson (Ph.D., University of Georgia) is assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law and the Center for Latin American Studies and director of UF’s International Ethnography Lab at the University of Florida. Her research focuses on policing, politics, and violence in Latin America and the epistemology of qualitative methods. She is the co-author of Harassed: Gender, Bodies, and Ethnographic Research (University of California Press 2019) and co-editor of The Paradox of Violence in Venezuela: Revolution, Crime, and Policing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2023). Her current book project looks at how the left-wing political project in Venezuela known as Chavismo altered the security landscape in the country. Her work has been published in Latin American Research Review, Journal of Latin American Politics, Sociological Quarterly, Sociological Forum, and Violence: An International Journal.

Verónica Zubillaga (Ph.D.,Catholic University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium) is a Venezuelan Sociologist. She is professor at the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas and currently, she is Tinker Visiting Professor at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Columbia University.  For the past twenty years, she has devoted herself to studying urban violence in Latin America; youth gang violence in Caracas; gender, public policy, and qualitative methods. In recent years Zubillaga has combined academia with public impact on social and armed violence, advocating for arms control and disarmament public policy in her country. Currently, she is actively promoting discussions about the search for justice vis-a-vis police violence in Venezuela.  Her publications include the co-authored books: The Paradox of Violence in Venezuela (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2023) with David Smilde and Rebecca Hanson; and La muerte nuestra de cada día. Violencia armada, y políticas de seguridad ciudadana en Venezuela (2021, Editorial de la Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá) with Manuel Llorens and Francisco Sánchez. In 2016, in Caracas, with her colleagues, she founded the Red de Activismo e Investigación por la Convivencia, REACIN, an association devoted to research on urban violence and activism on human rights and public policy for pacific coexistence. 

Moderator: Desmond Arias, Bildner Center/Graduate Center, CUNY

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