CARACAS, July 10 (Reuters) – Clashes between police and a gang in northwestern Caracas this week have left at least 26 dead, including four officers, and 38 injured, Venezuelan Interior Minister Carmen Melendez said on Saturday.
The casualty figure comes after several days of heavy gunfire forced some residents of the capital to flee their homes and haunt traffic in several neighborhoods as authorities in the crime-ridden city push back on what analysts describe as the attempt of a gang to expand its territory beyond the Cota 905 neighborhood. read more
Melendez said 10 officers were injured in the clashes and 22 “criminals” died. She said about 28 “citizens” – a reference to residents not suspected of being gang members – were injured and some civilians died, although she did not specify how many and did not give further details.
Human rights activists said this week that four people were killed by stray bullets during the clashes. Activists and the political opposition have accused the government of President Nicolas Maduro for years of ignoring and concealing civilian victims in anti-crime attacks.
They have also criticized the socialist government’s pacts with some gangs to create no-go areas for police in certain neighborhoods in an effort to reduce violence, arguing that so-called “peace zones” to consolidate power and resources.
“While civilians and police were murdered, Western Caracas lived in fear for two days, and Venezuelans flee the conflict, the dictatorship put on a show,” opposition leader Juan Guaido said.
Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, who spoke with Melendez on state television, claimed that the gang that controls Cota 905 had ties to some opposition politicians, without providing evidence. She added that three alleged members of “Colombian paramilitary” groups were detained in connection with the raids.
Reporting by Mayela Armas; Written by Luc Cohen; Editing by Daniel Wallis
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