Violence in the barrios of caracas social capital and the political economy of venezuela
The Latin American Studies Book Series
Daniel S. Leon
Violence in the Barrios of Caracas Social Capital and the Political Economy of Venezuela
The Latin American Studies Book Series Series Editors Eustógio W. Correia Dantas, Universidade Federal do Ceara, Departamento de Geograﬁa, Centro de Ciências, Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil Jorge Rabassa, Laboratorio de Geomorfología y Cuaternario, CADIC-CONICET, Ushuaia, Tierra de Fuego, Argentina Andrew Sluyter, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
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Daniel S. Leon
Violence in the Barrios of Caracas Social Capital and the Political Economy of Venezuela
Daniel S. Leon Global Studies University of Leipzig Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
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Prologue and Acknowledgements
The idea for this project stems from my time at The American University in Cairo. When I was completing my master’s thesis in political science at this university, I remember asking my then supervisor, Prof. Dan Tschirgi, about Cairo’s surprisingly low violence or homicide rate. Why did such a poverty-stricken, ultra-dense megacity be mostly free of deadly social violence? After visiting some barrios or slums in Cairo, the Venezuelan in me was struck not by the poverty, but by the peaceful coexistence, even if socioeconomic conditions were straining. Prof. Tschirgi replied to this question by saying something to the effect that, “Cairo is a fascinating place!” Although I do not dispute the veracity of such a statement, my experience of the barrios in Cairo allowed me to reflect on the causes of high violence rates in Caracas. This city is less impoverished and smaller than Cairo, but with social violence rates that are higher by a factor of about 100. Therefore, Caracas provides an ideal place to offer a possible explanation of high urban violence rates, which is a social outcome that has shattered too many families and has been one of Venezuela’s major development obstacles. I am deeply indebted to many people, who helped me in big and small ways to complete my doctoral dissertation in Global Studies at the University of Leipzig, which formed the basis of this present book. First and foremost, I warmly thank my former supervisor Prof. Heidrun Zinecker (University of Leipzig). Her comments and critiques were always constructive; even when some of my drafts rightly deserved unequivocal destruction. I am deeply indebted to Heidrun for the considerable amount of time and effort that she took to read my many convoluted drafts, and for her patience and support throughout the 3 years that we worked together. Our discussions, both in her ofﬁce and in colloquia, were always academically enriching. Heidrun deserves much credit for this project’s virtues. However, all errors of fact, interpretation, or research design are my own. Her support came not only in the form of constructive critiques of my writing or research design but many letters of recommendation, the possibility to teach at the Institute of Political Science, and encouraging me to speak German early at her colloquium. She has been a true mentor.
Prologue and Acknowledgements
The ﬁnancial support for this project came from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which I am incredibly grateful for being awarded the three-and-a-half-year Graduate School Scholarship. Additionally, the Graduate School of Global and Area Studies of the University of Leipzig provided me with the possibility to apply for this scholarship and for additional ﬁnancial and institutional support to attend supper schools and conferences outside of Germany. It also provided me with a stimulating academic environment and lasting friendships. In this institution, I am very grateful to Dr. Martina Keilbach for her work as the graduate school’s academic coordinator, who kindly helped me circumvent many administrative hurdles. I warmly thank Prof. Ulf Engel (University of Leipzig) for taking on supervision of my project at a late stage and for welcoming me in his colloquium. His guidance allowed my work to become much more readable and to better frame the scope and contributions of my study. I also thank Prof. Alejandro Velasco (New York University), who was kind enough to read my doctoral dissertation and provide a thorough, critical, and constructive review of it. He went above and beyond the call of duty of a reviewer, thus helping me to accentuate the strengths and amend the weaknesses of my book. In addition, Prof. Ursula Rao (University of Leipzig) and Prof. Helena Flam (University of Leipzig) let me join and beneﬁt from their colloquia and gave me constructive comments on several draft chapters of mine, and I thank them for that. I appreciate the effort of my fellow doctoral candidates who kindly read my many drafts and provided helpful comments in several colloquia and winter schools of the Graduate School. I want to especially thank the members of Prof. Zinecker’s colloquium: Steffanie Dreiack, Sebastian Hoppe, Wolfgang Günther, Thomas Plötze, Patricia Rendón, and Dr. Hannes Warnecker-Berger. They provided in-depth and constructive feedback in both formal and informal gatherings. I apologize for not mentioning every colleague who contributed to my work by name. Nevertheless, be assured of my sincere appreciation. In the last stages of this project, Lukas Kob and Ricarda Theobald kindly read parts of it and provided valuable comments. Dr. Antonella Regueiro (Lynn University) also contributed signiﬁcantly to help increase the readability of my arguments, to which I am very grateful. My ﬁeld research in Caracas from April to the end of June of 2016 was essential for this research. I would not have been able to gather all necessary data without the kind help of many people, which helped a middle-class guy from the mountains of Mérida to get a good look inside the barrios of Caracas. I am immensely indebted to my host family in Caracas. Marisela Ramirez, Sergio Flores, Soley Flores, and their dog Mario. They heartily welcomed me into their home, and their kind hospitality in hectic Caracas made my ﬁeld research possible. My parents Daniel and Maria Eugenia supported me immensely during my stay in Venezuela as they always have. Other lifesavers in Caracas were the Alarcon Family, Natasha Diaz, Yobany Guillen, Desirée Noack, and Adriana Quintiliani. I immensely appreciate their help: I also thank the 58 interviewed partners who sacriﬁced some of their time to sit down and talk with me. Their sincere effort made this project possible.
Prologue and Acknowledgements
Finally, a big thank you goes to my partner Hanna Bethcke. Her patience, German-language correction, support, and love were critical for me to ﬁnish this project. To Hanna, Heidrun, my family, Prof. Engel, all my professors, my friends and colleagues who lend their helping hand in the making of this book, ¡Gracias!
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1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.1 The Puzzle of Urban Violence in the Barrios of Caracas . . . . . 1.2 A Political Economy Approach to Analyzing Urban Violence . 1.2.1 Disentangling Macro and Substructural Variables . . . . 1.2.2 Theoretical Framework: Social Capital and Urban Violence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3 Urban Violence and the Political Economy of Venezuela . . . . 1.3.1 Rent-Cum-Marginality: A Theoretical Model to Analyze Susceptibility to Urban Violence . . . . . . . . 1.3.2 Barrels, Arepas, and Urban Growth: Explaining Low Susceptibility to Urban Violence . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.4 Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.4.1 Case Selection and Sources of Violence Rates in the Barrios of Caracas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.4.2 Operationalizing Social Capital . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.5 Structure of the Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.6 Interviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 A Theory of Social Capital as a Moderator of Urban Violence 2.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2 Deﬁning Urban Violence: The Instrumentality of Homicides and the Social Versus Political Classiﬁcation of Urban Violence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3 The Shortcomings of (Post-) Structural Theories Explaining Urban Violence Rates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3.1 Rentierism, Impunity, and the Political Order: The Ambivalent Link Between Oil-Rents and Urban Violence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3.2 Economic Deprivation: The Low Explanatory Power of Poverty, Inequality, and Urban Exclusion . . . . . . .
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2.3.3 Reconciling the “Paradox of Caracas”: Post-structural Explanations of Urban Violence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3.4 Filling the Gap: The Intervening Role of Social Capital . 2.4 Social Capital’s Moderating Effect of Urban Violence: The Role of Social Network Density and Collective Efﬁcacy . . 2.4.1 The Concept of Social Capital . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4.2 The Role of Social Network Density and Collective Efﬁcacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4.3 Social Network Density: The Importance of Weak Ties . 2.4.4 Collective Efﬁcacy: The Role of Social Disorganization and Collective Action Within the Institutional Context . . 2.5 A Nonlinear Theoretical Model of Social Capital and Urban Violence and Hypotheses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 High-Connectedness in Three Barrios of Caracas: Empirical Findings on Social Network Density . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2 A Brief History of Catia, Petare, and Baruta . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3 Weak Tie Presence in Catia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.4 Weak Tie Presence in Petare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.5 Weak Tie Presence in Baruta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.6 Explaining High Social Network Density in Catia, Petare, and Baruta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.7 Interviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Annual homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Venezuela and Caracas from 1940 to 2016. Source Table created by author with homicide data from: Ministerio de Sanidad y Asistencia Social (various years, 1970–1996), Ministerio de Salud y Desarrollo Social (various years, 2000–2004), Ministerio de Salud (various years, 2005–2006), Ministerio del Podar Popular para la Salud (various years, 2007–2014), Cedeño (2013, 3), Pachico (2015), Kronick (2016), and Seguridad, Justicia y Paz (2017). Homicide rates calculated by the author with population information from: Instituto Nacional de Estadística (2014a, 12; b, 9; c, 10), De Lisio (2001, 218), and World Bank (2017a, b). Note The following years were omitted due to lack of complete data: 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985, and 1988 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Disaggregated Venezuelan real annual GDP growth percentages from 1998 to 2012 (constant 1997 prices) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The contribution of oil rents to the Venezuelan revenues from 1998 to 2012. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Venezuela’s demographic and urban growth rates from 1891 to 2011. Source Graph created by author with data from: Baptista (2006, 927–930, 935), Instituto Nacional de Estadística (2014a, 12; 2016a, b), and World Bank 2016d (The World Bank (2016d) source was used to gather data on urban population for the years from 2001 to 2011. The World Bank classiﬁes urban centers in Venezuela as agglomerations of 1,000 inhabitants or more (World Bank 2016e, Table 6). Therefore, this source estimates the rate of urban population considerable higher than Baptista’s (2006), which was used for data on this indicator from 1891 to 2001). *Only including the following population centers: Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia, Ciudad Bolivar, Puerto Cabello, Barquisimeto, Coro, Cumaná, and Carúpano. (1) Urban centers with populations over 2,500 inhabitants. (2) Urban
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Fig. 1.7 Fig. 1.8 Fig. 2.1 Fig. 5.1
List of Figures
centers with populations over 3,500 inhabitants. (3) Urban centers with populations over 5,000 inhabitants. (4) Urban centers with populations over 10,000 inhabitants. (5) Urban centers with populations over 1,000 inhabitants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Public and private sector net investment (gross ﬁxed capital formation) as a percentage of GDP from 1970 to 2010. Source Figure created by the author with own calculations using data for years 1970–1996: Banco Central de Venezuela (2002, 126, 175); for years 1997–2010: World Bank (2016a, b). Note Investment to GDP ratios calculated in Bolivares with 1968 constant prices. For the 1970–1984 series, constant prices of 1984 for the 1985–1996 series, and constant prices of 1997 for the 1997–2010 series . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Percentages of household poverty in Venezuela from 1997 to 2012 in Caracas (note that the data provided by the Venezuela’s Instituto Nacional de Estdística (INE) was not disaggregated enough to calculate the exact values of poverty and inequality for the Caracas Metropolitan Area (CMA). Therefore, the values presented are an average of those reported for the Capital District and Miranda state. One-third of Miranda state, according to INE population data (2016c), belongs to the CMA. This makes the values presented in the above table representative of Caracas to a large extent but they might overestimate the city’s population size) from 2002 to 2012. Source Figure created by the author with data from: Instituto Nacional de Estadística (2016c) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Gini coefﬁcients as a measure of inequality in Venezuela from 1997 to 2012 in Caracas from 2002 to 2012 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Map of Caracas, Venezuela with the location of Catia/23 de Enero, Petare and Santa Cruz del Este/Minas de Baruta barrios. . . . 28 A nonlinear political economy model of urban violence in Venezuela . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 Annual drug charges and prison incarceration rates per 100,000 inhabitants in Venezuela from 2001 to 2011 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
List of Tables
Table Table Table Table Table Table Table
3.1 3.2 3.3 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4
Table 4.5 Table 4.6 Table Table Table Table
5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1
Social network density indicators in Catia . . . . . . . . . . Social network density indicators in Petare . . . . . . . . . Social network density indicators in Baruta . . . . . . . . . Indicators of social disorganization in Catia . . . . . . . . . Indicators of social disorganization in Petare . . . . . . . . Indicators of social disorganization in Baruta . . . . . . . . Indicators of institutional context and community organization in Catia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Indicators of institutional context and community organization in Petare. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Indicators of institutional context and community organization in Baruta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Indicators of state-barrio relations in Catia . . . . . . . . . . Indicators of state-barrio relations in Petare . . . . . . . . . Indicators of state-barrio relations in Baruta . . . . . . . . . Findings of social capital’s qualitative comparative analysis in three barrios of Caracas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Abstract High urban violence rates have been one of the leading development challenges in Caracas, Venezuela, as its homicide rates have been higher than most other Latin American cities. However, most violence occurs in its barrios or socioeconomically marginalized urban neighborhoods. This book aims to examine the structural causes of high violence rates in the barrios of Caracas while socioeconomic indicators improved through qualitative comparative analysis and a political economy approach. The outcome of high violence rates under improving socioeconomic conditions counters the established literature on urban violence, which shows the significance of this book. The introductory chapter discusses the structural parameter under which violence in the barrios of Caracas took place, which also frames the study’s qualitative comparative analysis. It discusses Venezuela’s dependence on oil exports since the 1920s, which generated economic rent, reduced the productivity of non-oil sectors, and increased the urbanization rate. However, the chapter shows that in the early twenty-first century, socioeconomic indicators improved, thus reducing marginality or economic deprivation. A reduction of marginality should have theoretically also led to lower urban violence rates, as lower marginality should reduce the incentives of committing homicide to achieve economic and cultural goals such as accumulating economic resources. This book forwards social capital as a possible intervening substructural variable that can explain the politico-economic structural conditions—or “causes of causes”—for high violence rates in the barrios of Caracas to occur. The analysis of social capital’s intervening role can explain the theoretical puzzle of increased violence rates under improving socioeconomic conditions. Keywords Social capital · Political economy · Violence rates · Barrios · Caracas · Venezuela
1.1 The Puzzle of Urban Violence in the Barrios of Caracas 15 millones de armas ilegales hay actualmente en el país. 72% de los asesinados son jóvenes de entre 15 y 29 años de edad, generalmente de sexo masculino. 63% de las víctimas de armas de fuego reciben más de cinco tiros. —Front-page of El Nacional, 13 August 20101
The text above was the front-page headline of one of Venezuela’s oldest and most renowned newspapers. Accompanying it was a large-size and gruesome image of Caracas’ central morgue. This image, which covered most of El Nacional’s frontpage was a response to the Hugo Chavez administration’s (1999–2013) repeated denial of Venezuela’s violence problem (Acosta 2011, 85–86). The image showed the morgue overflowing with the naked and lifeless bodies of young and middle-aged male adults lying on stretchers and even on the floor because the institution could not process their high inflow fast enough. Official data on homicides back the statistics presented in this front-page edition, as over 91% of homicides in Venezuela occurred through firearms (Comisión Presidencial para el Control de Armas, Municiones y Desarme 2012, 82; Zubillaga et al. 2008, 763). Venezuela has not experienced any significant armed conflict since the nineteenth century. No major interstate conflict has occurred in South America since the Chaco War of the 1930s (Martin 2006, 173–176). Yet the front-page of El Nacional cited above illustrated the problem of high urban violence rates that has plagued Venezuela and particularly its capital since the late 1980s. In this book, I equate the term violence rates with annual homicide rates per 100,000 inhabitants for the sake of measurement. Homicides provide objective evidence for the use of violence, which is why this book employs the latter term instead of the former. As illustrated in Fig. 1.1, violence rates became a major socioeconomic problem in Caracas and Venezuela only since after the late 1980s. Urban violence is a significant problem for socioeconomic development, as it hurts productivity, which exacerbates poverty and inequality (Fox and Hoelscher 2012, 432; Moncada 2016, 4). It is a social outcome that tears families apart and severely hinders possibilities of upward social mobility of impoverished urban communities. Caracas’ urban violence rates reached and even surpassed those of other high violence cities around the world, which evidenced the existence of this socioeconomic problem in the Venezuelan capital. The average violence rates from 2005 to 2012 of other high violence cities around the world were 21 in Bogota, 59 in Cape Town, 80 in Kingston, 71 in San Salvador, and 83 in Tegucigalpa, while Caracas’ average was of about 114 (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2013). In comparison to other high violence cities in Venezuela, violence rates in Caracas almost doubled the average violence rates from 2011 to 2014 of Barquisimeto and Guyana City, the 1 In
English: “15 million illegal firearms in the country. 72% of homicide victims are from 15 to 29 years of age and primarily male. 63% of firearm victims suffer over five gunshots” (El Nacional 13 August 2010, accessed on 19 October 2017, http://kiosko.net/ve/2010-08-13/np/ve_nacional. html). This and other translations in this book are the author’s own.
1.1 The Puzzle of Urban Violence in the Barrios of Caracas
Fig. 1.1 Annual homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Venezuela and Caracas from 1940 to 2016. Source Table created by author with homicide data from: Ministerio de Sanidad y Asistencia Social (various years, 1970–1996), Ministerio de Salud y Desarrollo Social (various years, 2000–2004), Ministerio de Salud (various years, 2005–2006), Ministerio del Podar Popular para la Salud (various years, 2007–2014), Cedeño (2013, 3), Pachico (2015), Kronick (2016), and Seguridad, Justicia y Paz (2017). Homicide rates calculated by the author with population information from: Instituto Nacional de Estadística (2014a, 12; b, 9; c, 10), De Lisio (2001, 218), and World Bank (2017a, b). Note The following years were omitted due to lack of complete data: 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985, and 1988
country’s second and third most violent cities, which exhibited averages of 60 and 58 yearly homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively (Pachico 2015). Therefore, high violence rates in Venezuela’s capital has been one of its main socioeconomic problems in the last decades. This present book contributes to the urban violence literature in the following manner: It focuses the analysis on Caracas’ barrios, which are the urban spaces exhibiting the highest concentration of violence rates. The urban spaces that are barrios are parts of a city that concentrate its socioeconomically marginalized inhabitants that often live in informal neighborhoods built in such spaces (Zayerz Moitalta 2013, 110; Camacho 2015, 53–55; Bolivar 2015, 62–63).2 In economic terms, barrio 2 Early modernization theory attempted to explain the phenomenon of barrios by arguing that it was
the first step toward the social mobility of the rural-to-urban migrant, and that secular economic growth would increase barrio-dweller savings rate, and thus investment in capital that lifts them out of poverty (Frankenhoff 1967, 29; Pachner 1977, 18). However, in many developing countries of the contemporary world the stability of informal settlements has been resilient (Marx et al. 2013, 188–189). Furthermore, evidence shows that barrio-eradication programs worsen the problem, because they do not eradicate the structural conditions creating these marginal urban spaces (Bettencourt and West 2010, 912).
inhabitants are socioeconomically marginalized because their economic productivity is less than what they need for subsistence consumption (Elsenhans 1994, 396). In addition, one may use several terms to refer to barrios, such as slums, shantytowns, or ranchos, but these are pejorative descriptions of these spaces and their inhabitants (Deffner 2011, 111–112; Perlman 2010, 152–156). This book chooses the term barrios to minimize carrying over social prejudices of these urban spaces and their inhabitants. Barrios are the urban spaces bearing the brunt of the significant socioeconomic problem that is urban violence. The perception of urban violence and insecurity tends to spread somewhat evenly among a city’s population, but actual urban violence overwhelmingly occurs in barrios. Data from 2010 shows that about 80% of homicide victims in Venezuela came from marginalized urban areas (Zubillaga 2013, 108). Violence in barrios overwhelmingly involves young males as perpetrators and victims (Imbusch 2010, 22–24, 31–35; Auyero and Kilanski 2015, 189–191; Zubillaga et al. 2015, 227–239). It is also important to note that barrio growth, youth bulges, or economic deprivation like poverty and inequality cannot explain high violence rates in Caracas and Venezuela since the 1990s. The reason is that longitudinal empirical evidence contradicts such often-mentioned explanations. As elaborated in this chapter’s third section, higher violence rates occurred while socioeconomic indicators were comparatively favorable, which means that to explain high violence in the barrios of Caracas it becomes vital to examine substructural variables that can intervene between macroeconomic conditions and urban violence rates. What makes high violence rates in Caracas puzzling is that they occurred while socioeconomic conditions improved due to high oil windfalls in the twenty-first century. By 2012 socioeconomic indicators like inequality (measured through the Gini coefficient) in Caracas and Venezuela decreased to about 0.4, while urban and national violence rates were among the highest in Latin America (Instituto Nacional de Estadística 2016c; Zubillaga 2013, 108–109). The behavior of violence rates in Caracas poses a theoretical puzzle to the academic literature on urban violence, which mainly posits increased violence rates after economic downturns. Similarly, improved socioeconomic conditions induced by economic upturns should prevent violence rates from increasing (Cook and Zarkin 1985; Bushway et al. 2013; Florence and Barnett 2013, 307–309; Rosenfeld and Messner 2013, 1–6; Rosenfeld et al. 2013, 2–3; Zubillaga 2013, 108–109). In economic terms, urban violence should have behaved counter-cyclically. That is, homicide rates should have decreased if the business cycle, or overall economic productivity, increased. However, examining the evolution of violence rates in Caracas up to 2011, the year where I was able to collect suburban data on violence, shows that they behaved pro-cyclically. In other words, violence rates increased while the business cycle, or overall economic productivity, increased. Moreover, not all barrios in Caracas experience the same violence rates. There are significant variations of violence rates in different barrios, even if on average they are higher than in middle-class neighborhoods. How can one account for interbarrio variations of violence rates while Caracas-wide violence rates behaved procyclically? What factors contribute to variations in urban violence rates between
1.1 The Puzzle of Urban Violence in the Barrios of Caracas
barrios? The behavior of violence rates in the barrios of Caracas creates a theoretical puzzle that the literature, to the knowledge of the author, has not yet explored. Comparing Caracas with other cities around the world such as Managua, Nicaragua, and Cairo, Egypt, which experienced the high presence of barrios and high poverty, as well as low violence rates, exemplifies the theoretical puzzle addressed by this book. Nicaragua is among the poorest countries in Latin America. However, in comparison to other countries in the region, especially in Central America, it showed yearly violence rates under 14 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants from 1998 to 2012 (Zinecker 2014, 36, 467–468; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2013). Cairo, on the other hand, saw worsening socioeconomic conditions after the International Monetary Fund-sponsored structural adjustment programs in the 1990s that reduced state welfare services while high fertility rates had swelled the urban population, thus giving way to giant barrios (Deboulet 2011, 202, 209, 228; Harrigan and El-Said, 2009, 78). Nonetheless, annual violence rates in Cairo were less than one homicide per 100,000 inhabitants yearly from 2003 to 2009 (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2013). The fact that urban violence rates in Caracas have been high while socioeconomic indicators improved, and that other cities like Managua and Cairo show low violence rates under poor socioeconomic conditions, further counters the argument blaming high urban violence rates on the presence of barrios and detrimental socioeconomic conditions. This book’s objective is to approach an explanation of the theoretical puzzle of persistently high violence under improving socioeconomic conditions. Specifically, this book analyzes why politico-economic structures affected the ability of Caracas’ working-age and adult barrio inhabitants to organize effectively to reduce violence while socioeconomic conditions improved. Analyzing effective organization to reduce violence serves to examine the ability of these barrio inhabitants to create formal and informal organizations of social control. In the analysis of public goods like security (Chaffe 1992, 4–5, 141; Olson 1971, 99–100), this book draws from the lenses of political economy—the combined use of “state-of-the-art economics and political science” (Elsenhans 1996, 15)—and not the discipline of Marxist dogmatism (Moore 1989, 584–586). The political economy approach followed in this book accommodates analytical “shortcuts” (Anderson 1972, 396) provided by other relevant disciplines like urban sociology and criminology. This book offers a cross-sectional qualitative comparative analysis of community organization in three barrios of Caracas to explain the puzzle of violence rates in the barrios of Caracas through a political economy perspective. The three analyzed barrios were barrios are Catia/23 de Enero (henceforth Catia), Petare, and Santa Cruz del Este/Minas de Baruta (henceforth, Baruta). In line with the research goals, the analysis of community organization focuses on ways that barrios inhabitants can effectively impart informal social control to prevent or reduce individuals to use violence as a tool to achieve their objectives. Cross-sectional analyses, however, do not eliminate considering the historical context. Comparing cases among a set point in time allows capturing accumulated historical effects (Rosenfeld et al. 2013, 3). The main finding was that informal social control was not effective in some barrios because of high transaction costs. Transaction costs are inherent costs of achieving
actionable goals, such as information costs (Coase 1998). Furthermore, elements of the institutional context found in the barrios of Caracas contributed to the creation of high transaction costs such as community organizations created and funded by the national government and urban security policies that repressively enforced the law on some crimes. Furthermore, specific low-scale organizational arrangements increased the incentives for using violence as a tool to predate on economic resources, even under improving socioeconomic conditions. I reached the above conclusion after testing the intervening role of social capital between Caracas’ politico-economic structures and high violence rates in the three barrios studied. The concept of social capital refers to the norms and rules binding social networks and propitiating trust and cooperation in a community, whose members repeatedly interact with each other (Fukuyama 2001, 7, 14; Lin 2001, 19; Putnam et al. 1993, 81–82). The new institutional economics perspective sheds light into the mechanisms that explain why social capital leads to organizational arrangements allowing for groups of people repeatedly interacting with each other to effectively achieve goals through collective action. Namely, the presence of social capital lowers transaction costs to pull local and extra-local resources to achieve collective goals like imparting informal social control. By lowering transaction costs to impart informal social control, an urban neighborhood is more able to prevent or act against violent individuals and groups, and thus lower urban violence rates (Coase 1937; Morenoff et al. 2001, 519–521; Sampson et al. 1997, 919; Stiglitz 1999, 60–62; Uphoff 1999, 218). Due to the focus on politico-economic structures elaborated in this book, the analytical contribution rests on examining the structural macro-determinants or “causes of causes” of high urban violence rates in the barrios of Caracas (Moore 1966; Parker 2008, 2–8, 110–120; Paoli 2013, 11, 22–23; Zinecker 2007b, 119). As explained in the coming chapters, social capital can lead to organizational arrangements preventing and producing high urban violence rates depending on the effects of the institutional context (Rubio 1997, 815; McIlwaine and Moser 2001, 967–968; Portes 1998, 18). The evolution of context-specific institutions, which are the social “rules of the game” (North 2005, 1–2), affects transaction costs, which places conditions on organizational arrangements in an urban neighborhood such as the ability to pull collective resource to achieve common goals like preventing or acting against violent agents. I build and test through causal process tracing (Bennett and Checkel 2015; Collier 2011) a qualitative theoretical model where social capital intervenes in the causal relationship between macrostructural conditions and urban violence. Hence, the causal process tracing provided by this present book runs from politico-economic macro-conditions to the intervening mesostructure of social capital. Analyzing the “causes of causes” of violence in the barrios of Caracas refers to the analysis of how structures or collective behavior lead to certain outcomes. Structural analyses as the one performed in this book originate from the work of Émile Durkheim. He proposes that the compositions of social structures lead to social
1.1 The Puzzle of Urban Violence in the Barrios of Caracas
outcomes.3 This approach leaves aside the analysis of violence’s agency. In other words, this book focuses on collective action at the local level of the barrio and does not examine the behavior of violent individuals or violent acts. Agent-level studies of urban violence aid in explaining the risk factors of violence and victimization. However, they do not “fully explain why rates of violence change over time or why some communities have persistently higher rates of violence than others” (Emphasis in original, Rosenfeld et al. 2013, 13–14). The aim here is not to argue that analyzing agency or individual behavior is irrelevant since agency is often critical in explaining variations between cases with similar structural compositions (Fukuyama 2014, 31). Instead, the purpose is to highlight that violence rates are structural variables, which require structural explanations. This introductory chapter continues in Sect. 1.2 with a brief explanation of how this present book analyzes high violence rates in the barrios of Caracas through a political economy conceptual framework. This book’s conceptual framework aims to avoid linear explanations by differentiating politico-economic macrostructures making a case susceptible, but not necessarily leading, to violence and intervening politico-economic mesostructures helping trace the structural conditions, or “causes of causes,” leading to high urban violence rates. Section 1.3 discusses the politico-economic condition making Venezuela susceptible to urban violence, which concisely explores the evolution of Venezuela’s political economy since major oil exploitation began in 1922. In addition, Sect. 1.3 shows how Venezuela’s political economy created a structural condition in the decade before 2011 that should have led to reduced violence rates in Caracas and nationally. Section 1.4 further elaborates on this book’s research design and methodology. Finally, Sect. 1.5 describes the organization of the forthcoming five chapters and their individual findings.
1.2 A Political Economy Approach to Analyzing Urban Violence To justify a literature review of violent crime from an economic perspective, criminologists Richard Rosenfeld and Steven Messner use the metaphor of “Sutton’s Law.” It comes from the (mostly) legend of Willie Sutton, an American bank robber who, when captured by U.S. federal agents, reportedly said that he robbed banks simply because, “that’s where the money was” (Rosenfeld and Messner 2013, 1). In 3 Durkheim
provides an illustrative example by explaining that suicide, a seemingly individual action, has its causes in the structural constitution of a society, like religious cultural structures (Durkheim 1897, 8, 335–336; Durkheim 1893, 356, 360). In his example, social structures created by Protestantism appear to lead to more suicides than those created by Catholicism (Durkheim 1897, 8, 335–336). Structures arise and reproduce social outcomes because individuals require information to assess whether their recursive actions will keep on having desirable payoffs (North 1991, 97–98; North et al. 2009, 16). They channel information in recursive human actions, which delineates individual choices affecting attempts by groups to organize toward achieving community goals (Giddens 1984, 2; Collins 2004, 5–6).
the tradition of political economy, the so-called “Sutton’s Law” hints to structural conditions that create powerful incentives for the use of violence by individuals to take advantage of economic opportunities (Merton 1938, 672). For example, conditions of severe poverty and lack of economic opportunities can create powerful incentives for individuals to use violence as a tool to gain economic resources. Such theoretical argument has strong empirical and conceptual backing in the urban violence literature, as there is a clear negative correlation between structural economic conditions and violence (Rosenfeld and Messner 2013, 3–6; Rosenfeld et al. 1999, 495–497, 512–514; Sampson et al. 2002, 443–445). Hence, the literature points to neighborhood disadvantage and economic downturns as the causes of high violence rates. Following such theoretical logic, the literature on urban violence, emanating mainly from the United States, identified a counter-cyclical relationship between economic structures and increased violence (Brown and Osterman 2012, 220; Cook and Zarkin 1985; Moncada 2016, 5, 8). In addition, the literature on violence rates in Venezuela, and of other cases, has blamed its cause on the high opportunities provided by structural economic conditions like economic rent windfalls from high oil exports (Briceño-Leon 2006, 2012; España 1993). As explained below in more detail, economic rent means excess income not used to compensate labor, like high oil exports (Buchanan 1980, 3; Elsenhans 2004, 89). However, disentangling politicoeconomic structures becomes imperative to properly trace the causal factors creating opportunities and incentives leading certain urban agents to resort to violence as an economic resource accumulation tool.
1.2.1 Disentangling Macro and Substructural Variables The theoretical shortcoming of arguments in favor of a counter-cyclical relationship between structural economic conditions and urban violence is that they are often either ambivalent in their process tracing or provide supply-side explanations. In other words, many established theories on urban violence tend to offer linear explanations of this outcome. Ambivalent theories providing linear causal relationships tend to arise when theoretical models ignore the embeddedness (Granovetter 1985) of different social structures like political and economic ones (Przeworski 2003; Rodrik 2007; Shirley 2009). Ambivalent or linear theories often lead to fallacious causal statements. Furthermore, supply-side empiricism is common among theories highlighting the importance of economic resources that one can loot, as they establish the causes of urban violence solely on higher opportunities over its costs (Medina 2008, 45–47; Cramer 2002, 1846–1847). Banks certainly provided Willie Sutton with high opportunities for armed robbery because, “that’s where the money was,” but he and other armed bank robbers were not committing such crime as an end in itself, but as a means to meet a structurally induced demand. Bank robbers or homicide perpetrators commit their crimes as a means to achieve culturally valued goals like fulfilling the “American Dream” (Messner and Rosenfeld 1994). Importantly, globalizing processes lead individuals to aspire toward achieving economic
1.2 A Political Economy Approach to Analyzing Urban Violence
goals, especially in Latin America, and not just in the United States. A conceptual framework seeking to approximate a theoretical model tracing the process of the macro-determinants of high urban violence rates in the barrios of Caracas must disentangle the hierarchy of structural variables inducing the use of urban violence. Ranking variables as either macrostructural or substructural aid significantly to disentangle the hierarchy of structural variables. It is crucial to consider the structural difference between Gewaltanfälligkeit—or susceptibility to violence—and Gewaltwirklichkeit—or actuality of violence to develop a conceptual framework for the study of violence in the barrios of Caracas (Zinecker 2014, 42–43). Susceptibility to violence occurs in cases where the macrostructure tends to produce the outcome of high urban violence rates. The actuality of violence occurs in a subset of cases that are susceptible to violence, but where substructural variables lead to high urban violence rates. For example, Managua or Cairo are cities displaying susceptibility to high violence, due to the high concentration of poverty, but their violence rates are actually low. On the other hand, San Salvador or Tegucigalpa are cities displaying both susceptibility and actuality of violence, since they exhibit a high concentration of poverty and high violence rates. Tracing the causal process leading to actual urban violence helps explain why such an outcome appears only in some cases and not in others with similar structural conditions. This conceptual framework helps to avoid “black-box” explanations, as one can engage in process tracing at the structural level.4 In doing so, one meets the methodological completeness standard of establishing a theoretical correspondence between conditions and outcomes by disaggregating substructural variables from the larger dominating structures (Waldner 2015, 128). The larger structures remain constant and become the substructural variables’ parameter (Lijphart 1971, 683). In turn, substructural variables become the independent variables linking the causal process between the structural parameter and the independent variable. Approximating a theoretical causal model tracing the mechanism linking this study’s macrostructural parameters to high violence rates in Caracas up to 2011 requires the analysis of substructural variables.
1.2.2 Theoretical Framework: Social Capital and Urban Violence Briefly stated, this study’s theoretical framework is that the structural composition of social capital acts as the substructural variable. Social capital’s structural composition either allows or prevents adult and working-age inhabitants of Caracas’ barrios from 4 Checkel
(2006, 362) illustrates the point behind “black box” explanations through the example of the international relations thesis “that democracies do not fight other democracies.” Empirical evidence seems to back such thesis, but that there is little theoretical explanation for how the mechanics of that process work. Meaning, there is little process tracing between foreign policy in democratic countries and lack of war between democracies.
organizing toward the goal of preventing or acting against motivated violent agents. Social capital can achieve reductions in urban violence by allowing urban neighborhoods like barrios to impart informal social control (Rosenfeld et al. 2001, 286–287; Messner et al. 2004, 884; Messner and Rosenfeld 1994; Messner and Rosenfeld 1997, 1396; Rosenfeld and Messner 2013, 61–62, 64). As explained further in the next section, the motivation to use violence by agents may arise from the structural parameter of institutional-anomie induced by the country’s politico-economic macrostructure. Briefly, institutional-anomie refers to the structural condition when economic norms become the dominant institution in society (Rosenfeld and Messner 1997, 213–214, 2013, 61–62, 64). However, Venezuela’s political economy and its evolution over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries created a macrostructural condition where susceptibility to urban violence declined in the decade leading up to 2011. This theoretical framework helps achieve a nonlinear process tracing between Venezuela’s politico-economic structural conditions and urban violence rates by analyzing the intervening effect of the substructural variable that is social capital. The literature has extensively discussed the concepts of social capital and urban violence, but there is still limited theoretical conceptualization on their relationship (McIlwaine and Moser 2001, 966). This study follows sociologist Nan Lin (2001, 19) in defining social capital as the investment in social relations with the expectation of future returns, which allows for trust and cooperation in a given community. This definition is consistent with that of the major theorists of the concept, such as sociologists James Coleman (1988) and Bourdieu (1977), as well as political scientists Robert Putnam et al. (1993) and Francis Fukuyama (2001). These theorists depart from the Marxian premise that there is capital in repeated social relations when there are “investments with expected returns in the marketplace” (Lin 2001, 3). However, a lingering problem has been very flexible applicability of the concept; leading it to become a sort of “social string theory” or a “social theory of everything.” Social scientists have relied on social capital to explain various social phenomena ranging from the quality of democratic institutions (Putnam et al. 1993, 83–86, 164–167),5 and of education (Coleman 1988, S109–S110), to the basis for economic growth (Collier 1998, 2), the prevalence of corruption (Fukuyama 2001, 9; Warren 2004), the social integration of people with disabilities (Condeluci and Fromknecht 2014), and, of course, urban violence. 5 Putnam
et al. (1993, 83–86, 164–167) examined the widely differing performances of the Italian regional governments. Although the different regional governments were constituted under a similar institutional framework and endowed with similar economic resources, socioeconomic performance between them was highly inequitable. Putnam’s conclusion was that some Italian regions developed civic networks of cooperation or social capital. Social capital like any capital generates positive-sum growth because it solves dilemmas of collective action, such as the prisoner’s dilemma, without the need of third-party contractual enforcement. Moreover, De Tocqueville’s (1841, 452–445) observation of how nineteenth-century Americans regularly engaged in political and civil associations is noteworthy because—he argued that this was a major factor in keeping this young nation “civilized” and to promote progress and democratic stability. Tocqueville’s work was an important source for the development of Putnam’s conceptualization social capital.
1.2 A Political Economy Approach to Analyzing Urban Violence
The conceptualization of social capital concerning urban violence stresses the process of institutional-anomie leading to the rise of violence as an instrumental tool or crucial means of resource predation. Institutional-anomie explains that an increase of urban violence rates may occur when the overarching politico-economic structure leads economic norms to become the dominant institution in a society (Hagedorn 2014, 347–349; Rosenfeld and Messner 1997, 213–214, 2013, 61–62, 64). Institutional-anomie does not refer to normlessness—Durkheim’s (1893, 356, 360) classical definition of anomie—but the dominance of economic norms in a society (Rosenfeld and Messner 1997, 212). As mentioned above, institutions refer to the social “rules of the game,” and one finds different institutions—political, economic, and cultural—embedded in social structures (Granovetter 1985; North 2005, 1–2). Despite the embeddedness of different institutions their social integration tends to be problematic. For example, “being a ‘good parent’ comes at the expense of being a ‘good employee,’ and vice versa” (Rosenfeld and Messner 1997, 213). When the economic structure wins this balance of power, it establishes the “rules of the game” or institutional norms, and thus achieving economic goals becomes more valuable than any other. If the economic structure does not provide formal or legal ways for agents—especially youth—to achieve such goals (Merton 1938, 674), institutional-anomie becomes a conduct of increased urban violence rates by making its instrumental use a mechanism of resource predation or market access a viable norm among certain individuals and groups (Messner and Rosenfeld 1997, 1396). The structuration of social capital, meaning the structure-agency interplay leading to the formation or continuation of social structures (Giddens 1984), helps reduce urban violence rates by creating informal institutions that foment social control. This structuration occurs as social networks become significantly “dense” (Mitchell 1969, 15, 17–18; Borgatti and Halgin 2011, 1171; Goyal 2007, 64), which transaction costs of achieving collective efficacy—sustainable organization toward specific goals like imparting informal social control (Messner and Rosenfeld 1997; Rosenfeld et al. 2001). Nonetheless, high social network density is necessary, but not sufficient for a certain structuration of social capital, which lowers violence rates in an urban neighborhood (Morenoff et al. 2001, 547–548). The reduction of transaction costs allowing for collective efficacy is the result of social capital’s positive by-products like trust and cooperation. However, social capital can produce negative externalities or unintended consequences to third parties resulting from social interactions. Social capital produces unintended negative consequences or negative externalities, as collective efficacy allows certain groups to pull resources together to efficiently predate on economic resources through violence (Field 2008, 98; McIlwaine and Moser 2001, 981; Rubio 1997; Warren 2004). Therefore, the structuration of social capital can produce both positive externalities in marginalized neighborhoods like barrios. It can produce positive externalities like increasing trust and cooperation in a barrio to prevent youth from joining violent street gangs. Under a different structuration, however, social capital can produce negative externalities like allowing street gangs to use violence more effectively as a tool to accumulate economic resources. A problem with the early conceptualization of social capital, forwarded by James Coleman, compounded the investment in social networks with the production of