CARACAS (Reuters) - One hundred and twenty policemen have been murdered so far this year in Venezuela, one of the world's most violent countries, a local watchdog said on Friday.
The South American nation is awash with guns and has the world's second-worst homicide rate after Honduras, according to the United Nations. Criminals have in recent years been increasingly targeting police to rob their guns, vehicles and phones.
A local monitoring and rights group Foundation for Due Process, or Fundepro, said it had registered 120 murders of policemen in the first half of 2015.
That compares with 268 killed throughout last year.
As well as robberies, the policemen have died in revenge killings and shootouts pursuing suspects.
The head of Fundepro, Jackeline Sandoval, said the governments of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez were responsible for failing to control criminality in Venezuela and allowing impunity to flourish.
"There have been 23 security plans by the Interior Ministry, and none has worked," she said in a telephone interview. "As long as you don't reform the justice system, and what you have is impunity, that contributes to the national crime wave."
On top of the police death toll, criminals have killed 35 military officials and 11 bodyguards, according to Fundepro.
Maduro's socialist government does not give official data on police killings, but he did declare it a priority at the start of his term in 2013, and visited some Caracas slums to plead with local gangs to lay down their weapons.
Officials had no comment on the latest Fundepro data.
(Reporting by Anina Roche; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Christian Plumb)