Caracas, March 14th 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Residents in the working class neighborhoods of la Cota 905 and El Valle in Caracas have spoken out against alleged abuses carried out by security forces during a series of raids in the area last Thursday and Friday.
At least 250 armed police officers descended on the neighborhoods last week as part of the citizen security mission known as “Operation Liberate the People,” resulting in 50 arrests and nine deaths, including that of Alex Yohan Vegas (16).
The anti-crime mission is aimed at cracking down on violent criminal gang activity, but residents in the area have accused officers of not following protocol and say that innocent people were caught up in the operation.
“He wasn’t a delinquent, he was 16 and he had barely been a dad for two months. His daughter was born on December 31… He was a good kid and they killed him in a bad way, he worked distributing cleaning products, I know because I got him the job,” Alex Yorman, Vegas’s father, told Venezuelan newspaper El Universal.
Yorman described how during the raid his family was forcibly removed from their house by police officers, who then entered and instructed a sleeping Alex to get dressed.
“They made him sit on the couch in the living room, and then soon after they started shouting 'confrontation, confrontation' and then they started to shoot. They killed my boy, they shot him in the chest,” added Yorman.
Other residents such as Moraima Mendoza also accused police officers of committing human rights abuses during the operation.
“They are killing innocent people without proof,” she stated in an interview with Union Radio.
“They go into the houses in any manner they want, without a judicial order. They attack families, and the children cry, why?” added Mendoza.
The controversial OLP mission was launched in 2015 but was later renamed the Operation for the Humanist Liberation of the People the following year in response to widespread complaints of human rights violations. In particular critics report that security officials do not follow due process and employ unnecessary lethal use of force against the civilian population.
A number of military and police personnel have also been arrested for having carried-out mass executions as part of the OLP. Most recently, eleven military officials were arrested for their role in killing twelve people and dumping them in a mass grave in Barlovento last November.
Several Venezuelan NGOs and human rights organizations such as the Support Network for Justice and Peace and even the Attorney General have voiced serious concern over the anti-crime initiative.