Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Venezuela is expected to become Latin America's most violent country in 2018 after reports show the nation's homicide rate surpassed that of Honduras and El Salvador, according to an organization's report.
"We will clearly become the most violent country in Latin America and the one with the most homicides worldwide," Roberto Briceno, director of the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence said in a report in the El Pais newspaper Friday.
This year, Venezuela has had a rate of 81.4 homicides per 100,000 people, he said.
"In 2017 we were second but this year our colleagues in Honduras told us the rate there will be about half that of Venezuela, while in El Salvador they will be close to 60 homicides per 100,000," he added.
In 2018, Venezuela tallied 23,047 violent deaths, 10,422 of which were, without any doubt, homicides, he said.
What is more worrisome, Briceno said, is that of these deaths, 7,523 correspond to people killed "resisting authority." That means that a third of the violent deaths in the country can be attributed to the country's security forces, he said.
Briceno said that the Venezuelan government has not only increase repression of its population but also, starting in 2015, carried out actions that appear to indicate it has adopted a policy to exterminate criminals, rather than fight crime.
Many of the homicides occurred in the municipality of El Callao, in the state of Bolivar, which is a mining region in the south of the country. There, the violent death index is nearly 620 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The state with the largest number of deaths is central Venezuela's Aragua, about an hour from the capital city of Caracas. Most of the deaths there are related to "resisting authority," Briceno said.
There is also growing rural violence as criminal gangs take over highways and move from town to town to commit thefts.
Theft on highways is so prevalent, particularly in the east of the country, that "trucks go escorted, if they have cargo, and when they are not carrying cargo they open doors to show they are empty," Briceno added.
Results of the organization's report were also published Friday by El Nacional newspaper in Venezuela. El Nacional separately reported that on Friday there were protests in the state of Bolivar over the killings of 110 minors, allegedly by police, in 2018.