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CARACAS, March 11 (Reuters) - Homicides in Venezuela have quadrupled during President Hugo Chavez's 11 years in power, with two people murdered every hour, according to new figures from a non-governmental organization.
The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV), whose data is widely followed in the absence of official statistics, said the South American nation has one of the highest crime rates on the continent, with 54 homicides per 100,000 citizens in 2009.
That rate is only surpassed in Latin America by El Salvador where 70 in every 100,000 citizens were murdered last year, the OVV said, citing official statistics from that country.
He collates his figures from police sources and media reports. When Chavez came to power in 1999 there were 4,550 homicides whereas in 2009 there were 16,047, the OVV said.
That means Venezuela experiences every month about as many deaths as occurred in the Gaza Strip during Israel's early 2009 offensive, Briceno said.