Caracas, May 5th 2016 (Venezuelanalysis) – Venezuela’s National Guard gunned down a notorious paramilitary chief on Tuesday afternoon during a military ambush in the rural state of Guarico.
Jose Antonio Tovar Colina, otherwise known as “El Picure,” was one of the ten most wanted criminals in the country. He infamously led a brutal and extensive paramilitary group which stretched across the states of Guarico, Miranda and Aragua.
The gang “Los Picures” was involved in a series of hired killings, kidnappings, and vehicle hijackings, even exercising control in local construction mafias and carrying out extortion amongst campesino groups in the countryside.
“They were extremely well organised, this gang aimed to create ‘exclusive zones’ in Guarico and they were achieving it,” said state Governor Ramón Rodríguez Chacín on Tuesday.
The politician went on to state that the gang emerged as a splinter group from previous governor Luis Enrique Gallardo’s inner circle of bodyguards and alleged that they had links to far-right organisations, as well as to the political parties “The Popular Will” and “Democratic Action”. Party spokespeople have vehemently denied the allegations and denounced them as “irresponsible”.
The ambush against one of the country’s most wanted came on the back of months of investigation and a special military operation which lasted 33 hours, reported Venezuelan daily Ultimas Noticias.
The paramilitary chief was eventually found hiding out in the house of his partner’s neighbours, where he was ambushed and fatally shot by a select group of the National Guard.
Authorities report that three other alleged members of El Picure’s organisation were also killed in the shoot-out, including two men who were related to the owners of the house where he was hiding.
But family members and neighbours in the community have denied that the men were involved with Los Picures and allege that they were collateral damage in the high-stakes ambush.
They say that Colina had threatened to “liquidate” them if they informed authorities that he was hiding out there.
A cache of heavy weaponry was also recovered as part of the operation, including grenades and a shotgun. Four women were also arrested.
No retaliations for the killing have been reported to date.