The leadership of Venezuela's Roman Catholic Church raised concerns Thursday about rampant violent crime, urging President Hugo Chavez's government to curb the country's rising murder rate.
"The grave danger is that many crimes go unpunished in Venezuela," Bishop Diego Padron, president of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, said in reading a statement prepared by the organization.
The Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a non-governmental group that tracks violent crime, says at least 19,336 Venezuelans were slain during the first 10 months of last year _ a 9.8 percent increase from 2010, when 17,600 people were killed.
The groups estimates an additional 2,000 people were killed in November and December. That would mean about 57 Venezuelans were slain for every 100,000 inhabitants of the South American country, the group says.
Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said at a news conference earlier this week that authorities had encountered difficulties trying to combat violent crime.
El Aissami put the official murder rate at 48 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants.
He did not provide details regarding official statistics, which have not been released in recent years.