Venezuela: clashes between police and gangs leave 26 dead

Steph Deschamps / July 11, 2021

Some 22 delinquents and four members of the security forces were killed in clashes that lasted two days between police and gangs in western Caracas, announced Saturday the Venezuelan Interior Minister, Carmen Melendez.
 
The clashes, which began on Wednesday night, also resulted in casualties among the population of the affected neighborhoods, but the minister did not specify the number in her televised address. Some 28 people were also injured, including 18 residents of the neighborhoods where the clashes took place, she added. Nearly 2,500 members of the security forces took part in the operation to recapture Cota 905, a popular neighborhood in Caracas. After two days of heavy gunfire, including with heavy weapons, the Venezuelan security forces invested Friday the four barrios , or popular districts, in the hands of these gangs, whose leaders are on the run. On Thursday, the police had issued wanted notices against them, including the media El Koki. It promised $500,000 in reward money.
 
It was like a war. We protected ourselves and waited for it to pass, Jesus Rey, a 40-year-old mechanic who lives in the neighborhood, told AFP at the scene. The Cota 905 gang sought to prevent law enforcement from entering the neighborhoods and disrupting their traffic.
 
The minister said on Twitter that no less than 20,000 rounds of ammunition, three rocket launchers, 26 rifles, including four FAL assault rifles, four machine pistols, three grenades and six pistols, were recovered. A clandestine drug lab was also dismantled, according to Melendez. We found a military arsenal of war, from other countries, she said on television. Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez announced the arrest of three alleged Colombian paramilitaries. The government of President Nicolas Maduro accuses the opposition, the United States and Colombia of being behind the actions of these gangs in order to destabilize him.
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