Venezuela, the most violent country in South America, recorded a new high of 21,692 murders this year along with a surge in kidnappings, prison riots and random shootings.
The number of victims was up by 12 per cent from last year when there were 19,336 deaths, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory said in its annual report.
... Unlike other Latin American countries Venezuela is not involved in a drug war or on-going battle with guerrillas.
But according to the Observatory, a think tank set up by public and private universities, it now has a murder rate of 73 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 67 in 2011.
The rate is well above neighbouring Colombia, and Mexico which has been engaged in a bloody drug war, and is closing in on Honduras, the country with the highest murder rate.
There are more murders in Venezuela than in the United States and the 27 countries of the European Union combined. In Caracas the murder rate is more than 200 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The Observatory said: "Killings have become a way of executing property crimes, a mechanism to resolve personal conflicts and a way to apply private justice."
President Hugo Chavez, who is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba, rarely talks about violent crime.
...Venezuela's murder rate has soared since Chavez took office in 1999, growing from 4,450 murders in 1998[.] Criminologists expected the rate to fall with decreasing poverty, but income inequality has fallen dramatically and murders are going up.
In a report earlier this year The Brookings Institution said: "No one would guess Venezuela's crime crisis from looking at these (poverty) figures.["]Maybe because there is no connection between poverty or "income inequality" and murder. Maybe the root cause is corruption and violence by the government, and a collapsing civilization.