CARACAS – A combined military and police operation launched Monday against gangs in a densely populated area of Caracas left at least 14 suspected criminals dead, one wounded and 134 under arrest, said the Interior Minister, Gen. Gustavo Gonzalez.
“The criminals have suffered 14 casualties and have one man wounded. In the coming hours an analysis, an evaluation will be made and results announced of the so-called Operation Liberation of the People (OLP),” the minister said in a televised address.
Some 10 hours after the operation was launched, “clashes were reported” Monday afternoon in the San Miguel neighborhood on the west side of Caracas around Expressway 905, according to the general of the Bolivarian National Guard, or GNB.
Taking part in the operation were 200 National Guard soldiers and members of other police units supported by helicopters and small tanks, while “among those arrested are 32 foreigners, presumably associated with paramilitary organizations,” he said.
“We call on our people, we need your support to avoid being penetrated by subversive organizations...we will not allow foreign elements” to swell the ranks of national crime gangs, he said while reporting on the seizure of arms and drugs in quantities yet to be determined, and on the recovery of stolen vehicles.
The minister said the operation started “48 hours ago” in other parts of Venezuela, particularly in Aragua state near Caracas.
In Aragua, another three suspected criminals were killed “a few days ago,” before the operation was launched, Gonzalez said.
Meanwhile in the Valleys of the Tuy, also near Caracas, he said, 900 soldiers of the National Guard were mobilized in the operation that has also arrested nine people, apparently members of gangs dedicated to kidnapping and extortion.
In Tiuna City on the west side of Caracas, the minister said, another 1,200 members of the GNB arrested 102 people, eight of them foreigners “with paramilitary ties.”
Besides the trafficking of drugs, vehicles and arms, those in custody allegedly hoarded the food products so scarce in Venezuelan markets, and occupied housing projects built by the government, he said.