Venezuelans turn to 'Holy Thugs' for divine help

High crime rate and lack of arrests has led many in capital to seek protection from a higher authority.

    Venezuela has one of the top five murder rates in the world, and in the capital Caracas, where few ever pay for their crimes, people have turned to a higher authority for protection and justice.

    Venezuelans gather to chant and pray to the statue of Ishmael, who people say in life was a gun toting gangster who stole from the rich and gave to the poor until he killed by a corrupt police officer.

    In death he is sought out by criminals needing his help and everyday people hoping for protection from their enemies

    Ishmael and his gang are known as the Santos Malandros or "Holy Thugs".

    They are part of the Maria Lionza cult - a religion that blends Catholicism with West African and Native American traditions.

    Al Jazeera's Rachel Levin reports from Caracas.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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