President Hugo Chavez ordered thousands of National Guard soldiers into the streets of Venezuela's capital and surrounding states yesterday, urging them to help outgunned police curb widespread violent crime.

More than 3200 troops were sent to the streets of Caracas as well as the surrounding states of Miranda and Varga.

The Government has not released official statistics tallying annual killings for several years.

But the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a Caracas-based academic organisation that closely tracks crime statistics and trends, says that from 1998 through 2010, the yearly homicide rate tripled, rising from 19 for every 100,000 residents in the South American nation to 57 per 100,000.