Venezuelan Gov’t Shows Evidence of Alleged Opposition Ties to Violent Groups in Caracas

Far-right leader Leopoldo López was reportedly looking to take advantage of the violence in the popular barrios of Caracas in order to advance destabilization efforts.

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Jorge Rodríguez holds up a screenshot of messages
National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez holds up a screenshot of messages showing alleged links between opposition figures and violence perpetrated by organized crime groups. (@latablablog / Twitter)
By José Luis Granados Ceja
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Mexico City, Mexico, July 14, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) President Jorge Rodríguez presented evidence of collusion and cooperation between opposition figures and heavily armed organized crime groups in the popular hillside barrios of Caracas.

Rodríguez showed captures of Whatsapp chats purportedly showing efforts by Leopoldo López and associates to sow violence and disorder in areas such as Cota 905, which was recently the target of a large-scale operation by state security forces against criminal groups.

“We have messages that involve [opposition figures] in the terrorist actions perpetrated by the criminal gangs of Cota 905. We know that Leopoldo López organized violence in the neighborhoods with financing and weapons,” stated the former communications minister in his press conference on Tuesday.

The police operation began last Thursday and mobilized some 2500 men and women from several police and security agencies backed by armored vehicles and helicopters. The government declared the deployment a success after retaking control of Cota 905 and surrounding areas from allied gangs headed by alias “Koki,” “Vampi” and “Garbis,” who managed to flee the scene. Before the operation, the area had effectively become a “no go” zone for police, and previous smaller efforts by state security forces failed to dislodge the organized criminal groups.

The chats presented by Rodríguez show López working with allies to take advantage of the horizontal violence and conflicts in the popular barrios of the capital in order to advance his destabilization efforts against the government of Nicolás Maduro. The Harvard-trained politician is currently in Spain fleeing charges, having escaped from house arrest during the April 30, 2019 failed coup. After taking refuge in the Spanish embassy in Caracas, the hard right leader managed to leave the country in October 2020.

The aim of the opposition plot, codenamed “La Fiesta de Caracas” or the Caracas Party, was to sow chaos and disorder through intimidation efforts and by promoting violence against working class residents of the popular hillside barrios. In the days leading up to the police operation in Cota 905, several passers-by were fired upon with live ammunition while armed groups wreaked havoc in surrounding neighborhoods.

In addition to Leopoldo López, the chats revealed the participation of Luis Somaza, a close advisor to self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaidó, and opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara, who was detained Tuesday. Attorney General Tarek Saab confirmed his arrest warrant in connection to "the crimes of terrorism, attacks against the constitutional order, conspiracy to commit a crime and treason".

In response, López called the press conference a "show" and claimed that the evidence had been forged as part of an attempt to destroy the Popular Will Party.

Rodríguez added that preliminary investigations into the alleged financing of organized crime groups by the right-wing opposition through cryptocurrencies were underway. He vowed that right-wing politicians like Guevara, who saw charges amnestied as part of government-opposition negotiations, would not enjoy the same benefit again.

The AN president also said that yet another assassination plot against Maduro had been foiled. According to details shared by Rodríguez, the would-be assassins intended to murder the Venezuelan president on July 5 during events to celebrate Venezuelan Independence Day as he greeted troops from the presidential grandstand. This year, Maduro did not participate in the events at the Paseo Monumental de Los Próceres in Caracas, as is normal during these celebrations, instead greeting troops at the military academy.

Rodríguez claimed that the security firm allegedly linked to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, known as CTU Security, was also tied to a previous assassination attempt against Maduro that took place on August 4, 2018. On that date, toward the end of a military parade, various industrial drones loaded with C4 explosives were neutralized, causing two explosions just meters away from the president and a number of high-ranking officials.

CTU Security is headed by Antonio Itriago, a Venezuelan national based in Miami, Florida who has been tied to far right politicians in Colombia, including former President Álvaro Uribe and his protégé and current president, Iván Duque. CTU Security was likewise involved with the “Venezuela Live Aid” theater that saw opposition figures try to force “humanitarian aid” from Colombia into Venezuela. The efforts were halted at the border, with one truck burned by a wayward molotov cocktail thrown by opposition activists who were trying to enter Venezuelan territory.

Rodríguez went on to point the finger at Bogotá as “the epicenter of violent actions” in the region. Three Colombian paramilitaries were reportedly caught in the Cota 905 operation, with Venezuelan authorities vowing to publish evidence of ties to the Duque government.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.

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