Violence-wracked Venezuela targets police corruption

Relatives and friends carry the coffins with the remains of Venezuelan model Monica Spear and her British-born partner Thomas Henry Berry during their funeral at the Eastern Cemetery in Caracas on Jan 10, 2013. Venezuela urged police on Saturday to r
Relatives and friends carry the coffins with the remains of Venezuelan model Monica Spear and her British-born partner Thomas Henry Berry during their funeral at the Eastern Cemetery in Caracas on Jan 10, 2013. Venezuela urged police on Saturday to report corruption in their ranks seen as part of the violent crime crisis, after a famous ex-beauty queen was slain. -- PHOTO: AFP

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuela urged police on Saturday to report corruption in their ranks seen as part of the violent crime crisis, after a famous ex-beauty queen was slain.

In this violent crime-wracked nation, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez gave out his cellular number during an address and asked police to call him to report corruption.

"New police will always have some great superiors, well-prepared ones. But they also are going to get some bad eggs. Report them fearlessly because their (corruption) undermines police authority for the Venezuelan people," Rodriguez said in the address carried on state television.

Experts often cite corruption as part of the crime crisis. Homicides run from 39 per 100,000 people to 79 per 100,000, based on government and NGO data respectively.

"Just give me the information right away, and we will rip the head off that immoral police superior," the minister warned.

Authorities only solve eight out of 100 homicides in Venezuela, emboldening criminals who have turned the South American nation into one of the world's most dangerous places outside war zones.

Monica Spear, a former Miss Venezuela who starred in a telenovela at the US-based Telemundo network, became the latest casualty of her homeland's crime epidemic Monday.

Robbers shot Spear, 29, and her 39-year-old British ex-partner Henry Thomas Berry in front of their five-year-old daughter, who was wounded, after they desperately locked themselves in their broken-down car on a northwestern Venezuelan highway.

Seven people, including a woman and two teenagers, have been arrested in connection with the double murder.

The couple was buried on Friday while their daughter, Maya, was in the care of her grandparents.