Some 22 “Delinquents” and four members of the security forces were killed in the two-day clashes between police and gangs in western Caracas, Venezuelan Interior Minister Carmen Melendez announced on Saturday (July 10th).
These clashes, which began Wednesday evening, also claimed victims among the population of the neighborhoods concerned, but the minister did not specify the number in her televised address. Some 28 people were also injured, including 18 residents of the neighborhoods where the clashes took place, she added.
Nearly 2,500 members of the security forces took part in this operation to reconquer Cota 905, a popular district of Caracas. After two days of heavy gunfire, including heavy weaponry, Venezuelan security forces raided the four « barrios », or working-class neighborhoods, in the hands of these gangs, whose leaders are on the run. On Thursday, the police had issued wanted notices against them, including the media « El Koki ». She promised a $ 500,000 reward.
“As in a war”
“It was like a war. We protected ourselves and we waited for it to pass ”, said on the spot to Agence France-Presse Jesus Rey, a 40-year-old mechanic who lives in the neighborhood.
The Cota 905 gang sought to prevent law enforcement from entering neighborhoods and disrupting their traffic.
The minister said on Twitter that no less than 20,000 ammunition, three rocket launchers, 26 rifles, including four FAL-type assault rifles, four submachine guns, three grenades and six pistols, had been found. A clandestine drug manufacturing lab has also been dismantled, according to Mme Melendez. “We have found a military arsenal of war”, from ” other countries “, she said on television. Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez, for her part, announced the arrest of three suspected “Paramilitaries” Colombians.
The government of President Nicolas Maduro accuses the opposition, the United States and Colombia of being behind the actions of these gangs in order to destabilize it.