Venezuela

Police and ‘mega-gangs’ locked in brutal combat

FILE - In this June 28, 2015 file photo, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro puts on his eyeglasses at a polling station, before casting his ballot in his party's primary elections in Caracas, Venezuela. Maduro’s administration is cracking down on “mega gangs” in the country.
FILE - In this June 28, 2015 file photo, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro puts on his eyeglasses at a polling station, before casting his ballot in his party's primary elections in Caracas, Venezuela. Maduro’s administration is cracking down on “mega gangs” in the country. AP

Police agents of the Venezuelan state of Aragua executed in cold blood an alleged member of a “mega-gang” shortly after killing at least three other men, a video obtained by el Nuevo Herald shows.

Police sources indicated that the deaths — reported last week as the result of a clash between police and criminals in San Vicente, a Maracay suburb about 87 miles west of Caracas — led the members of the crime organization to launch a “hunting season” against law-enforcement agents, ambushing patrols and starting a massive attack against a station. At least two agents died and two were wounded.

The execution and attacks against the police are occurring amid the growing wave of violence affecting the state of Aragua, where security agencies are trying to fight these big crime organizations after gangs merged.

The video, presumably taped last week, shows police agents executing a man they had detained. Two of the agents are seen holding the man by his arms while a third aims a gun at his face.

Upon seeing the weapon, the man tries to turn his head away, but one of the agents orders him to look straight ahead. The man obeys and seconds later a shot is heard. The video was taped secretly from a building across the street.

Once the victim falls to the ground, the uniformed agents proceed to tidy the place, washing away the blood with water. A trusted source linked to Venezuela’s security institutions gave el Nuevo Herald the video, but the authenticity of the tape could not be independently verified.

The video, the source said, matches an incident on Aug. 5 reported by the local media, in which police agents tried to thwart a robbery in an industrial area of Maracay.

The newspaper Diario 2001’s website reported that the alleged thieves had tried to break into a metallurgic plant and were caught by police.

“The suspects, surprised by the police, tried to make a getaway opening fire against the police. In the shooting, four of the suspects were shot down,” the newspaper said.

The daily newspaper El Carabobeño wrote that the men were trying to steal a “red Mitsubishi pickup truck” that belonged to the company’s owner.

The video shows a vehicle with a similar description.

The police source said the deaths have intensified the gangs’ attacks against the police, at a moment when Nicolás Maduro’s regime is trying to repress the expansion of the mega-gangs.

On Monday night, nearly 30 heavily armed men assailed the police station of San Vicente. The perpetrators, some of whom carried AR-15 assault rifles, shot an agent coming out of the station and then opened fire against the station and the cars.

The assailants opened fire from an area in front the station, according to the news site elperiodiquito.com, while other gang members in a nearby parking lot shielded them, and frightened neighbors took shelter in their homes.

The agent leaving the station died after being shot five times while the other two were wounded.

On Friday, an officer of the Aragua police was murdered in a town called Sabaneta, west of the state and close to the Pan-American Highway. Four men intercepted the officer, who was driving a Honda Civic, and killed him with a shotgun, elperiodiquito.com reported.

Venezuela is suffering from the impact of a series of mergers among traditional neighborhood gangs, which have grouped in “mega-gangs,” organizations of more than 50 members each that operate with virtual impunity in different areas of the country.

The emergence of the “mega-gang’’ phenomenon was triggered by actions of the Chavista government, including the corruption of government officials who provide war weapons and the impunity from the absence of a state policy to fight crime.

Some of the gangs operate in the state of Aragua, where they have been at war with police authorities for several weeks.

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