Mérida, July 11, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan state security forces retook control of vast areas of Caracas following a large-scale operation against criminal groups in recent days.
The so-called “Gran Cacique Indio Guacaipuro Operation,” in reference to a local 16th-century anti-colonial resistance hero, began on Thursday and mobilized some 2500 men and women from several police and security agencies backed by armored vehicles and helicopters.
The target was the hillside popular barrio Cota 905, which was taken over by allied gangs headed by alias “Koki,” “Vampi” and “Garbis.”
For several months, the three men and dozens of followers wreaked havoc by expanding to surrounding neighborhoods, extorting local businesses, parading heavy weaponry and attacking nearby police stations. The clashes routinely left bystanders dead.
Several smaller-scale deployments failed to dislodge the gangs, which often resorted to taking hostages to demand the withdrawal of police forces or briefly retreated only to return days later. The group had likewise been successful in taking advantage of its high ground to deter police incursions.
“The Gran Cacique Indio Guaicaipuro operation has been hugely important to preserve the well-being and peace of the people of Caracas, especially in areas like the Cota 905,” Vicepresident Delcy Rodríguez said in a press conference on Saturday.
Police contingents slowly gained ground after clearing a burning truck and gunfire blocking the narrow accesses. Rodríguez reported that the three-day operation left 22 gang members dead and 28 wounded, while on the security forces’ side there were four dead and ten wounded. Unofficial accounts likewise reported five civilians killed in the crossfire.
Venezuelan authorities secured the release of a number of hostages and allegedly seized large amounts of weaponry while also dismantling a drug laboratory. However, the leading gang members and lieutenants are said to have fled the Cota 905 prior to the operation, with search operations set to continue in the coming days. The government is offering a US $500,000 reward for information on alias Koki’s whereabouts.
“The people here were held as ‘hostages’,” Rodríguez went on to say, blasting the criminal group leaders for setting community spaces ablaze before leaving, including the social missions’ headquarters in the neighborhood. “We’ll bring in all the social programs to tend to the victims of violence,” the vice president pledged.
Three Colombian paramilitaries were allegedly amongst an undisclosed number of arrests, with Rodríguez claiming that the urban violence in the capital had ties to wider regime-change efforts involving the Venezuelan right-wing opposition, Bogotá and Washington.
“There are probably lots of nerves over at the Nariño Palace [in Bogotá],” she warned, vowing that evidence of Colombian mercenary involvement in the Cota 905 gang activity would be released in the coming days.
The vice president recalled the 2004 Daktari estate incident which saw 62 Colombian paramilitaries captured in the outskirts of Caracas. Alongside conspirators in the Venezuelan armed forces, they planned to attack the Miraflores Presidential Palace and kill then-President Hugo Chávez.