As Venezuela Economy Continues Downturn American Expats Increasingly at Risk

Caracas slumsVenezuela used to be known as a place where locals would leave their car doors unlocked and roam the streets at night looking for their next bar stop without the typical amount of fear doing such things would carry elsewhere. Unfortunately, those days seem to be long gone, at least in many parts of the country.

According to a recent story by, the recent economic downturn the South American country is currently facing has taken its toll, and as a result more and more people are turning to criminal behavior. In what many see as a chance to get their hands on valuable U.S. dollars, those being targeted for crimes are increasingly American ex-patriots.

John Pate, an American lawyer who lived in the country’s capital of Caracas for over 35 years, was one of those unfortunate recent victims. Last summer he was murdered, stabbed to death, after criminals broke into his girlfriend’s house he was staying at.

“It feels like a lottery with bad odds,” his son Thomas said of the violence in Venezuela’s capital. “The case is still under investigation and the authorities have been helpful. But this also shows you how Venezuela has become an increasingly dangerous place.”

Perhaps “lottery,” though, isn’t quite the right word for it. Where lottery winnings in the U.S. are subject to a maximum income tax rate of 35%, criminals in Venezuela will take everything, including life.

The economy is being blamed as the primary factor for the recent crime wave. As inflation continues to rise and the country’s currency continues to be devalued natives are desperately searching for ways to get by. The possibility of American dollars can make for the perfect criminal motivation.

The Venezuelan government has not released any information or statistics on the country’s crime rate in the past 10 years, but anecdotal evidence and general climate of the country is clear to those living there.

“It’s not like a war where people don’t have fun anymore, but people are constantly on edge, and there just isn’t much nightlife anymore,” said an American businessman, who refused to have his name published. “Everyone around here drives cars with tinted windows. And at night you don’t stop at red lights because it can be dangerous.”