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Troops deployed to subdue Venezuela crime

Members of the Venezuelan armed forces before their deployment, in Caracas on May 13, 2013
Members of the Venezuelan armed forces before their deployment, in Caracas on May 13, 2013. Venezuelan police and about 3,000 soldiers have been deployed in Caracas, especially in areas belonging to the State of Miranda (North) ruled by the opposition lea

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that his government will dispatch some 3,000 police and army troops throughout the country in a bid to stem spiraling violent crime.

"We have decided to fight with all our heart and soul to create a safer country," said Maduro, announcing the launch of what authorities are calling operation Safe Homeland 2013.

Troops were to fan out across what the government says are the least safe parts of Venezuela, including the Sucre and Baruta neighborhoods of Caracas located in the state of Miranda, where vanquished presidential challenger Henrique Capriles serves as governor.

"I am not a dictator, but I have to protect Venezuela's children," Maduro declared, adding that the troops eventually will be sent to every region of the country.

Also on the list of locales where troops were to be sent first is opposition stronghold state of Lara in the northwest, as well as other regions with a strong anti-socialist leanings, including Zulia in the northwest and Carabobo in the north.

Capriles narrowly lost a vote last month to succeed late president Hugo Chavez, sparking a surge of post-election violence that left nine people dead.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) speaks with Defence Minister Admiral Diego Molero in Caracas on May 13, 2013
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) speaks with Defence Minister Admiral Diego Molero during a ceremony preparing the deployment of armed forces, in Caracas on May 13, 2013.

Many Venezuelans remain angry over disputed April 14 elections that erupted in violent protests after Maduro was proclaimed president with an 1.8 percent margin of victory over opposition candidate Capriles.

But in addition to the post-election violence, Venezuela has the highest homicide rate in South America, with 54 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants.

In the first four months of the year alone, there were 3,400 homicides, according to government figures.

A UN report published in September ranked it number six in the world for murders, out of 206 countries surveyed.

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