Caught between gang and Venezuelan police in Kota 905 | Crime News

Caught between gang and Venezuelan police in Kota 905 | Crime News



Caracas, Venezuela – The 300,000 residents of the Cota 905 shantytown inhabiting the hills of western Caracas are no strangers to violence.

Their community was abandoned by the police in 2017 and has been run by gangs. There have been some conflicts in recent months, but nothing beats Ines (not her real name-she likes the others in this article who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation) to escape her home in a fierce battle Go all out. Gunfight.

Ines and 11 other families live in an abandoned kindergarten. When the police arrived at Cota 905 on July 7, gang members told Ines and her neighbors that they would either leave or hide, and they would use the school as a shooting point. The battle has lasted for 12 hours.

Cota 905 has long been under the control of a group run by Carlos Luis Revete, known as El Koki. An agreement reached with the government in 2017 named it the “Peace Zone”, which means that the police abandoned it and let the residents supervise themselves. President Nicolas Maduro’s government hopes that the strategy will help reduce violence; instead, Rivet used this time to consolidate his power, better arm his fighters, and expand to other regions.

After the police allegedly ransacked their apartment in an abandoned school in Caracas, Venezuela, the family organized their belongings [Gustavo Vera/Al Jazeera].

Fearing gangs and police, Ines and her 16-year-old daughter left school with clothing and food they could get. They walked for several hours before seeking refuge at relatives.

The next day, a neighbor who stayed behind called her and told her the bad news. “The police broke my door; they ransacked my house,” she told Al Jazeera.

Neighbors said they saw the police leaving the kindergarten with their belongings, including refrigerators and washing machines. The Venezuelan Ministry of Information, speaking on behalf of the police, did not respond to a request for comment.

The battle continues. The explosion can be heard in a nearby middle-class community. Stray bullets are a problem. A woman was injured in front of Quinta Crespo, the main market in Caracas, and the nearby Southern Cemetery was also considered dangerous.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Justice and Peace, Carmen Melendez, stated that more than 3,100 officers from different forces were sent to Cota 905 and other areas affected by the fighting.

She tweeted on July 8: “National security organizations continue to be deployed in areas violated by these criminals and will not rest until they regain absolute control.”

A riot car of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) at the entrance of the Cota 905 community.The police have not entered the area since 2017 [Gustavo Vera/Al Jazeera]

The next day, more people left. The whole family walked around Caracas in the rain, carrying small bags, looking for a place to live until the violence ceased. Residents told Al Jazeera that they were worried that the police would involve them or their children in conflict-imprisoning or killing them, and then incorrectly label them as gang members.

Ines said that this situation became common during police raids: “If they can’t find a criminal, they will look for innocent and young people,” she told Al Jazeera. “I have lost my family in these raids.”

On the fourth day of the battle, a helicopter flew over the Cota 905 and dropped hundreds of flyers with the faces of the leader and other suspected gang members, providing more than $1.5 million in rewards for capturing them—the leader was $500,000. US$20,000 for members.

One of the flyers caught Alejandra’s attention. “My son was killed four years ago, and now the police provide him with $20,000,” she told Al Jazeera. She said that when the police dragged her son outside and opened fire in front of his house, her son Kenderson was sleeping in her house.

She said that he was one of the many victims of the government’s so-called “Emancipation and Protection of the People” operation, a series of allegedly mixed military and police interventions against criminal groups between July 2015 and June 2017. Maduro called it “the perfect tool for peace.” According to the United Nations, these actions led to arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions of at least 413 people.

On July 12, 2021, a wanted poster was placed on a destroyed trash can in Cota 905 in Caracas, Venezuela-the poster fell from a helicopter to provide rewards for the main gang members of the “Koki” gang [Gustavo Vera/Al Jazeera]

“They are just laughing at my pain,” Alejandra said, holding a leaflet with the face of her late son printed on it. She said that Kenderson is a hardworking person and has never participated in gang activities. Alejandra said she was afraid that the police would return and hoped that people would know that her son was dead.

Ines’ sister Amelia spent more than four days fighting in Cota 905 before leaving. She sent her 21-year-old son to a location she did not want to disclose. Ines thought it might be dangerous to have three sons in one place. She took her two other sons to Qatar, 76 kilometers (47 miles) away-she thought it was safe enough.

After she sent the child to the relative’s house, she returned to Cota 905 to retrieve the food left behind because they ran away in a hurry. She said she couldn’t afford more.

While Ines was away, the police entered the house where her niece and two young sons were playing video games. They pointed their guns at them—and then blindfolded them. They kept asking “a suitcase full of money,” Ines’ youngest son said-she didn’t want to announce the name of his or her niece.

One of dozens of checkpoints set up by the government-one of the entrances to Cota 905 in Caracas, Venezuela [Gustavo Vera/Al Jazeera]

The police ordered her niece and youngest son to “go away and don’t look back”, while her 19-year-old second son Yoeiker was detained for questioning. Soon after they left the house, her niece and youngest son said they heard two gunshots.

Neighbors said that the police had been walking around Cartanal in Los Valles del Tuy, asking if there were people from Cota 905 in the area.

Yoeiker thinks he has a way to leave the shanty town. Ines said he has won a position on the professional basketball team and plans to join them in the upcoming season. His family described him as a timid young man whose only hobby is sports.

During Yoeiker’s funeral, his aunt was watching while the gravedigger put cement on his grave to prevent robbery. “They are sealing the life of a young man, a promise of basketball and a dream of a mother. All of this is only because of Cota 905.”

Fearing retaliation, Al Jazeera changed the names of the interviewees at their request.


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