World’s Most Dangerous Cities: Caracas – BBC Stories


I’m a journalist.
How long would it take the average
person around here to buy
that bottle of water?
SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE
Is that a grenade in his hand?
I’d arrived in Caracas,
the capital of Venezuela.
The city has the highest
homicide rate
of any capital city in the world.
It’s also become nearly impossible
to enter the country
as a journalist,
so my only way in was as a tourist.
The country’s been in economic and
political turmoil since 2010,
culminating in riots, with 2017
seeing large-scale protests
on the street
and brutal government crackdowns.
Crime is out of control.
The situation’s gotten so bad,
it’s thought that 9 out of 10
murders now go unsolved.
As I was about to see for myself.
So Caracas is the deadliest capital
city in the world
in regards to homicide
and I’ve been in touch
with a crime journalist
who covers these things
day in, day out.
She’s just got in touch saying
there’s been a suspected homicide
so we’re heading there right now.
We’ve got to tread quite
carefully, though.
She thinks the government don’t want
us to be showing these images
and also we’re here as tourists
so I don’t really know what’s
going to happen when we get there.
I was meeting Lysaura Fuentes,
a local crime journalist here.
Official stats on homicides
aren’t released and Lysaura says
her work tracking them is
unpopular with the authorities.
She was nervous –
you never know when the intelligence
services are watching.
OK, Alex, put the camera down.
Erm, is that it?
Oh, there’s the body.
ALEX: Let’s just get over there now.
SIRENS BLARE
Here’s the ambulance.
OK, let’s go for it. Go, go, go.
We’d made it as some emergency staff
were tending to the body.
The police were yet to arrive.
The thing that’s
incredible here is just
how little of a thing this is
to people passing by.
There’s just numerous people walking
past,
there’s a body lying in
the middle of the street
and there isn’t even a crowd.
It’s just part of daily life
in Caracas.
All right, the police are here.
We’re not meant to be here. Hold on.
If the intelligence service
come and find out who we are,
we’ll be in trouble.
Lets pull back now, guys. Yeah.
Let’s just pull back.
Lets just go down there.
We pull back from the crime scene
to speak further to Lysaura.
One of the incredible things about
it is that everybody walking past
doesn’t even seem to be
that affected by it.
OK, gracias. We should go
before we get…
..before we get taken away.
OK, thank you so much.
It’s hard to be certain of the true
scale of Caracas’ homicide rate…
..but Lysaura told me
there are up to 20 bodies
being delivered to the
local morgue each day.
One of the main reasons for
the city’s’ crime problems
is the Venezuelan economy.
Things have gotten so bad
that the IMF is predicting inflation
to reach 1 million %
by the end of the year,
which will make the national
currency, the bolivar,
effectively worthless.
This has led to wide scale poverty,
and made getting goods
such as food, clothes and medicine
almost impossible.
I was meeting Gerardo Canas,
a shop owner
in one of Venezuela’s biggest
and most violent shanty towns,
to find out how the economy
was affecting the average person.
I mean, how long would it take the
average person around here
to buy that bottle of water?
Like, a week to buy a bottle
of water? That is insane.
It’s madness.
Like, it really makes me just wonder
how anybody could survive at all.
Inflation is so
terrifyingly high here,
the currency is losing value
literally every single second,
meaning by the time you get to the
shop, your funds may be gone.
The guy’s card’s just got rejected.
Rejected again?
THEY SPEAK OWN LANGUAGE
Do you get customers who come here
who haven’t eaten for days?
Shops like Gerardo’s
are far from rare.
All over the country, supermarkets,
convenience stores and
hospitals are understocked,
leading to huge queues and meaning
those with goods often hoard them,
selling them on for many
times the original price.
With the situation being so bleak
and many being desperate to survive,
some are turning to
drastic solutions.
It’s hard to get exact figures
but kidnapping has become one of
the most lucrative crimes
in the country
and that means its appeal is huge.
Many don’t leave the house after 7pm
to stay safe,
but how else can you keep
yourself protected?
With the chance of being kidnapped
in Caracas so high,
one booming business is
kidnap negotiation.
I’m just about to meet a man
who’s a former police officer
turned kidnap negotiator.
Hola, buenos dias.
Miguel Dao is one of the finest
kidnap negotiators in the business
and he’s been involved in
this world since he was 17.
He was keen to give me some tips
on how to stay safe.
First up, don’t drive a nice car.
It’s so easy, isn’t it? So quick.
Why is no-one covering their faces?
Is that a grenade in his hand?
Who are the people
doing the kidnaping?
Would you advise me to try and seek
these people out or is it dangerous?
I was shocked at the videos I’d seen
and quite apprehensive.
These were not men
I wanted to be near,
but I had so many questions
I wanted to ask,
so I began trying to arrange a
meeting at a later date with them
through a contact.
Threats of robbery,
murder and kidnap
aren’t necessarily bad
for everyone though.
I’d heard there was one booming
business in town.
It was keeping people safe
and making business owners
hundreds of thousands.
Instead of “pimp my ride”,
it was “fortify my people carrier”.
The armoured car business
was thriving.
Hola.
Hola, Benjamin.Hola.
I was meeting 63-year-old
Israel Barbosa.
He’s armoured around
500 cars in Caracas
and wanted to show me how it works.
That is one thick…
That is thick, man. Si.
Would this stop a bullet
coming through? Si.
I suppose, you know, the insecurity
is bad for the country,
but it’s good for business?
Excuse me?OK, OK.
Give me your car, bitch!
I’m going to kidnap you
and take everything …
ALARM BLARES
OK, you win, you win.
You made the mistake!
I think I’d probably drive a car
like this in Caracas.
It’d make me feel
a little bit safer.
Israel tells me it costs
between 18,000-25,000
to armour a car like this,
and that there are still people
with money in the country.
But does it even work?
There was only one way to find out –
to get a random man I’d only
just met to fire his pistol at it.
Right, I’m ready to go.
OK, obviously, you have a
ballistic vest on, I don’t.
No, no, no. Sure? I mean,
I can just… Use this, please.
Are you sure? No, no.
Yeah, I’m sure, I’m sure.
Are you risking your life for me?
We’ve only just met and you’re…
How do I protect my ears first,
actually? Have you got the, um…?
For your ears? Yeah.
Ah, you don’t have more?
You’re joking, aren’t you?
There we go,
I’m putting some bullets in my ears
to make sure my ears…
Oh, it actually works!
I hope these are clean, like, but
bullets don’t just explode
by themselves, do they?
I’m not going to…
ALARM BLARES
Impressive stuff, man, impressive.
Wow.
Wait, so where’s the bullet gone?
Yeah, it hasn’t even gone through.
Si.Yeah.
My friend with the gun has
been working in security in Caracas
for 25 years,
and he was keen to show me why it
was such a necessary business.
This is an assassination? Mm-hm.
For the car? They just
killed him without even…
Just shot him.
It’s so easy,
just such a disregard for life.
Man.
And they run over his bod…
Oh, man. Oh, man.
Oh.
Definitely puts it into perspective
of how dangerous this place can be.
The videos just get worse.
I’m shown one of a gang member
allegedly stabbing an
off-duty policeman to death.
I’m told these videos are common,
put out to terrify the police.
That is horrible.
It looks like an Isis video,
to be honest.
And what’s worse, these were the men
I was trying to meet.
The local police don’t have the
capacity for fighting against this.
The police here earn
2, 3 a month.
3 a month!That’s not enough.
I was amazed at the level of
impunity in Caracas.
It felt like you couldn’t
rely on anyone any more.
This is a country that used to be
one of the wealthiest
in Latin America
and now it seemed like
every person for themselves.
Back in the barrio, I wanted to see
how you survive here if you
don’t have the option
of an armoured car.
I was meeting up with Nancy and
her daughter Eliany.
It’s the poorest here,
unable to afford protection,
who face the most danger.
What a view this is.
Why are you saying
this is your window of agony?
How’s it going?
So how old are you?
What’s it’s like being 16
in Venezuela at the moment?
The violence is inescapable
for Nancy and her daughter.
Eliany herself was robbed
and stabbed at gun point,
though she didn’t want to
talk about it on camera.
And she recently
saw someone murdered
from her own bedroom window.
You literally saw someone
being killed out here?
I mean, has it always
been like this?
Eliany isn’t alone
in her wish to leave.
In the past couple of years,
over two million Venezuelans have
fled the country in search
of a better life.
Spending time in the barrio,
it wasn’t hard to see why.
Without the option of armoured cars
and bodyguards to stay safe,
many here feel there’s
only one other choice…
Hola. Benjamin.
..to turn to the criminals
themselves for protection.
THEY SPEAK SPANISH
Wow, look at this.
I’ve come to visit a shine
for Santos Malandros,
translated as “the holy thugs”,
a place where the spirits of
dead gangsters are worshiped
in return for protection and help.
In a place where
criminals are kings,
it seemed the best option
was to join them.
So things are…these are
the Malandros themselves?
It was hard to figure out exactly
what criminals like Luis Sanchez
had done to become saints,
but they appeared to be
Robin Hood characters,
robbing from the rich
to give to the poor.
So why are people worshipping
criminals? It’s quite unusual.
Yeah, I mean, they’re
very interesting
cos all of the men have guns
around their waits,
cigarettes in their mouth.
They’re not your usual saints.
SHE SPEAKS SPANISH
OK, thank you very much. Here we go.
Oh, I have to inhale? Fumar.
I don’t even smoke,
but, oh, OK.
Just stab it.
Right, here we go.
Does it just stay there, like that?
Yeah.
And that’s done?
And now he’ll offer me protection
from the crimes of Caracas.
But I wasn’t yet truly protected.
It was time for the real ceremony.
The man in front of me had been
possessed by a spirit called Chacao.
He had taken on his voice and I was
forbidden to look into his eyes.
I was bent over, slapped…
OK, slightly painful.
..threatened…
..and finally, it was done.
Am I now more protected in Caracas?
Because of this, I’ll be safe?
How long does the protection last?
Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely not
a conventional ceremony
but in a place where crime is rife
and everybody knows someone who’s
been murdered,
it is one way of getting
a little bit of hope
and the feeling of security
that’s desperately needed.
Feeling protected, I headed out
to meet some of the most powerful
and dangerous people in Venezuela.
During his time in power, former
president and cult hero Hugo Chavez
set up a number of collectivos.
These were groups,
often paramilitaries, that were
designed to act as defenders
of revolutionary socialism.
Now, after his Chavez’s death
and in the carnage that is
modern day Venezuela,
they’ve assumed even more power
and I was on my way
to meet one of them.
These guys are notorious supposedly
for kidnappings, extortion
and killing people and they’ve let
me in and they’re going to show me
around their little community
so it’s going to be interesting.
I was heading to one colectivo
in the January 23rd community,
completely cut off
from the rest of Caracas.
It’s essentially a
state within a state.
So, yeah, I think we just
keep rolling
cos I think there’s going to be a
lot of weird things that happen.
This collectivo denies
any involvement
in kidnapping, extortion and murder,
but the stories I’d heard
made me nervous.
So there’s, erm, basically a lot of
people behind the camera
who don’t want to be on camera
but who are showing us the way.
Erm, so yeah, it is
quite interesting,
these guys have, like,
all walkie talkies,
they have their own security,
they’ve created their own
little country.
Erm…
It’s quite impressive and
terrifying all at the same time.
These groups are accused
of aggressively defending
the government’s agenda.
They also don’t trust the
Western media
and I was lucky to get invited in
but i was told to tread carefully.
There’s Hugo Chavez doing what he
does best, admiring a football.
I was being shown around by Andreas.
How many people are
in the community?
Wow. That i a big community.
What is your exact role,
do you act as kind of security here?
In the bank.
This is the bank? OK, fantastic.
With the country’s official currency
so worthless,
the community had
created its own money,
with more affordable prices for
staple items like bread.
It was called El Panal.
Wow. I like the colour,
good colour of money, that.
I mean, this is the main man
himself, Hugo Chavez,
the guy who’s inspired all of this.
There’s a bakery, there’s an
electronic shop selling TVs.
OK. Do all of these places
take the El Panal?
On the surface,
this feels like a sort of mini
utopia in the madness of Caracas
but I have to keep on reminding
myself that some collectivos are
accused of violence, kidnappings
and acting as government stooges.
Eventually, it was time
to meet the chief.
This guy is the commander
of this place,
he’s got his own little
country here.
He’s quite a scary man,
I’m not going to lie to you,
don’t want to get on the
wrong side of him.
Robert Longa is keen to tell me
he’s just a humble builder
and spokesman,
but judging by the fact that
everyone around us
is doing exactly what he says,
it’s pretty clear he’s
the commander of the community.
Shots of Chavez.
Would you call it
a state within a state?
Cos you have your own money, you
seem to have your own security.
Is this essentially its own country?
You know, some people in Venezuela
think Chavez might not have
been as good as you think,
he might have had more of a
negative effect on the country.
What would you say to them?
Is Caracas dangerous in your eyes,
is it a dangerous place to be?
I mean, I’m definitely not
trying to create a thriller.
HE SPEAKS SPANISH
He’s going to chop my penis off.
HE SPEAKS SPANISH
It’s a bit awkward.
Let’s go, let’s go.
And on that note, body still
intact, we say our goodbyes.
My friend, vamos.
As I left the collectivo, a message
had come through my contact.
It was from one of the city’s
most violent kidnap gangs.
They wanted to meet.
I’m just driving at the moment
to a barrio in West Caracas
because, after a few days of
negotiation,
we’ve finally got an interview
with a kidnap gang.
These guys kidnap and murder people
on a daily basis
and I’ve been told by my translator
that if I say the wrong thing,
they would literally have no
qualms in killing me whatsoever.
So I am quite nervous,
but this is also my chance
to ask them, you know,
why they do what they do,
but also to see how they operate.
We’re told we can’t take our phones
or anything that could
trace our location.
The camera must also stay hidden
until they say so.
We’re led to a house
on the back of motorbikes,
we’re searched at gunpoint for
tracking devices
and then we’re told
we have ten minutes to film.
TRANSLATOR:He’s saying you have
the looks of a cop.
Really?
I’m not a cop my friend.
I’ve never been a cop,
I’m a journalist.
Obviously I’m nervous!
You guys have guns.
You know, I’m not in this
situation on a daily basis.
Erm, you know, obviously
I just want it to end well.
So, I mean, when you do a kidnap,
how does it work?
Why do you think Caracas
is so dangerous now?
I mean, what does it feel like
to kill somebody?
Relax, my friend.
All right. Erm…
What do you think could have
happened differently in your life
to have taken you on another route
that wouldn’t have involved
kidnapping people, killing people?
My time in Caracas was up
and I was a bit shaken.
My interview with the kidnap gang
was one of the scariest I’d done
and the level of violence
and crime here had blown me away.
I didn’t meet many people
who were positive about
the future of their country
and with little protection
from the police
and a culture where crime is one of
the only things that pays,
who can blame them?

100 thoughts on “World’s Most Dangerous Cities: Caracas – BBC Stories

  1. WE COULD'VE DONE WITHOUT THE GARISH SENSATIONALIST GRAPHICS AT THE START AS WELL. HAVING SAID THAT I APPRECIATE BEN'S EFFORTS.

  2. MORE VIOLENT MIDDLE BAND AFRICAN CITIES SHOULD BE PRIORITIZED ABOVE CARACAS AND WOULD'VE MADE A MORE INTERESTING DOC TO GO WITH KABUL AND PORT MORESBY (GREAT CHOICES).

  3. Very good work . Follow the line of truth. This guy and his team have real balls. Capitalism is satanic. Nothing good can come out of it. Just look into nowadays Venezuela. The southamerican people are good tribes, with original good hearts and bright minds. They are strangled by capitalistic imperialism. My heart is suffering to see this brave people in their fight against evil.

  4. This makes me appreciate our ISLAMIC middle-eastern countries even more now Alhamdulillah 🙏🏻 I thank God for being born in the middle-east despite all the American agenda media- this is a bliss that we shouldn’t take for granted but should work to keep it. Even those countries under war; Syria and Yemen were safe before the civil war and had LAWS and ethics I only pray the US will stop interfering in our countries for good…. they never will tho!

  5. i dont understand this, it takes an average person a week to earn a bottle of water, but people are still drinking water and driving cars and eating food. how can that be?

  6. It really is a mad world, the haves and the have nots of this world. If we are born in a rich country we are lucky, if not then we struggle. Sometimes when we live in the west we can forget how hard it is for many in this world. There are too many weapons in this world, too many dangerous drugs being dealt and an unfair global economic system

  7. you could shake your heads at the level of crime in caracas but I Think that would miss the point and reality that people in desperate situations do desperate things…. given the level of poverty the economic decline the situation in the city etc- it's understanable that this is what has become of it. Please note I'm not trying to justify their crimes…but I understand when poverty is this grinding this is he natural effect…

  8. The only thing I find shocking is that people in this comments seciton are shocked that the BBC is good…. I adore british television…

  9. I honestly thought he was literally fucking mad trying to meet the assassins and kidnappers of Caracas, like fooken hell

  10. You had one question to ask and you were to weak to do it. "HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY MEN!!!!"
    But a multicultiral station like BBC would not care would they….. About Nationalism.

  11. USA. Should intervene and eradicate each one of these lunatics and give them the taste of all their acts they have done till date slowly and slowly, inch by inch. And than allow them to live till they die due to pain. They should experience their doings upon their bodies too.. men, women whosoever it maybe none should be spared for their ferocious and henious deeds or actions. USA should free the people who wishes to live a normal, happy and peaceful life. They aren't capable enough and nor have the guts to free themselves up from such criminals. Also along with the criminals eradicate all the law officials, officials of any branch, politicians involved and have given such kinds any form of encouragement or any sort of help or support.

  12. We here in America should be gathering life pointers and advice. The United States will surely turn this way at the rate we are going.

  13. This is just insane, puts alot of things into perspective what we take for granted.. This guy has alot of guts going there, but in saying that it's nothing compared to the people of Venezuela living it every day.. How and why has it gotten to this level of insanity, that's people's lives they have absolutely no regard for whatsoever, how do things get so bad that things like this is the norm and not a rarity.. It's sad to see what people will do to eachother..

  14. Would have liked to seen more info on reasons why this region is in such a state…exploitation by other nations such as GBR and USA perhaps?

  15. the american government is trying to throw a coo over the venezuelan government causing this mayhem.
    journalism does not exist. Pray for the people and for Chavez

  16. Pay attention Liberals. Here's the results of Socialism. Keep this in mind in 2020. Democrats want to bring this horrible economic system to the United States.

  17. Cant believe I'm saying this but I prefer when journalists were scumbags uncaring and greasy, as opposed to now as they are biased soft globalist and never tell just the story but rather their opinion of the story

  18. I'm convinced this is all part of the illegal attempt by the UK and USA to steal Venezuela from Maduro. Tell lies, create political chaos, issue sanctions by the USA, then move in for the kill. Thank you Britain and America for making the world a better place.

  19. try taking a trip to morocco darb sultan it's super dangerous and i got my whole stomach cut open i was in a coma for 5 and the guy chased me down with a machete

  20. I’m Venezuelan, born and raised, and I would’ve never met with those people, not a fucking chance, I don’t know how you didn’t end up kidnapped, mind boggling.

  21. I wouldn't be sneaking around there as a 'tourist' with a camera crew. This journalist and crew could easily disappear with no trace and the Venezualan government likely wouldn't cooperate with foreign countries seeking information about its missing citizens.

  22. jesus benjamine huge balls u have to get in there. cities r get in more dangerous i think. caracas is the hole dark shit. im from argentina in 2 weeks we have elections 1 of the candidates aproves maduro (fernandez) and his politics, the other one (macri) is against maduro politics and in favor of europe, japan, usa, canada, oceania… this elections r very important

  23. 18:03 Playing with demonic rituals like that your life will never be the same homeboy. I call protection over his life from those curses in Jesus' name

  24. Capitalism may be bad IYO, we're told to look at the USA, but they're saying socialist states like this are better? Interesting philosophy.

  25. Thank you Allah for punishing these transgressors they are being punished for their actions and living life in hell Allah O Akbar

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