Venezuelan Police Move In On Gang-run Caracas Neighborhoods

Venezuelan police move in on gang-run Caracas neighborhoods

Caracas, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 10th Jul, 2021 ) :Venezuelan security forces entered four poor neighborhoods of the capital Caracas on Friday seeking to end two days of fighting with armed gangs that have claimed several lives, AFP has witnessed.

"We control the area but there may still be a few snipers," an officer told AFP.

No official toll has been given but local media say a dozen people have lost their lives since fighting broke out between gangsters and police in the neighborhoods, or "barrios" on Wednesday -- including several bystanders.

On Thursday, the authorities issued search warrants and offered rewards of up to $500,000 for gang bosses behind the deadly clashes but now on the run.

In sectors controlled by the Cota 905 gang, the ground was littered Friday with bullet casings, evidence of thousands of shots fired in two days, according to images on social media.

"It was like a war. We hid and waited for it to pass," Jesus Rey, a 40-year-old mechanic who lives in the neighborhood told AFP.

Interior Minister Carmen Melendez tweeted that police have "advanced in the dismantling of the criminal structures that have settled in these territories with the intention of sowing terror.

" The government blames the violence on an alleged plot by the opposition to "destabilize" President Nicolas Maduro.

"The enemies of the homeland intend to sow anxiety through the financing of criminal gangs, we will not sit idly by," Maduro wrote on Twitter. "We are acting forcefully, adhering to the laws." Around 800 members of the security forces were deployed in the operation, searching pedestrians and homes, and seizing cars, motorcycles and barrels of diesel thought to belong to the gangs.

In June, similar clashes killed at least three people including a nurse who fell victim to a stray bullet.

Friday was the first time in years the authorities have launched a major offensive against the heavily-armed gangs who have de-facto control over parts of the capital.

Venezuela is one of the most violent nations on Earth.

In 2020, the country registered 12,000 violent deaths, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory. This is a rate of 45.6 per 100,000 inhabitants -- seven times higher than the global average.