CARACAS – At least four people were killed and two others wounded in two shootings apparently involving gangs or paramilitaries in the southwestern Venezuelan state of Tachira, state police said.
The shootouts occurred Saturday in the city of Coloncito, where troops were deployed to prevent further violence, a Tachira state police spokesman said.
“Authorities in the region presume that it has to do with irregular gangs, involving paramilitary gangs fighting for control of the area,” the police spokesman said.
Tachira is on the border with Colombia and the Los Urabeños and Los Paisas gangs, which are based in that country, operate in the area.
The first shooting happened in the business district of Coloncito, where two subjects on a motorcycle opened fire on two men who were walking down a street, starting a shootout that left the pedestrians dead, the police spokesman said.
The victims, both Venezuelan citizens, were identified as Johnny Gonzalez, 38, and Victor Mogollon, 22.
Mogollon, who was pronounced dead at a hospital, was carrying a 9 mm pistol.
Two women – a pedestrian and an employee at a nearby store – were wounded by stray shots, the police spokesman said.
The second shooting occurred a few blocks away, where two people on a motorcycle and gunmen in a vehicle exchanged gunfire.
Adriana Villegas, 23, and Raul Hernandez, 28, who were riding on the motorcycle and carrying Venezuelan identification documents, were killed in the shootout.
Investigators are trying to determine whether the documents are authentic and the victims’ possible links to criminal organizations, the police spokesman said.
The first theory for investigators whenever incidents like these occur “is always a fight for power, a gang war,” the police spokesman said.
“Two groups – the Urabeños and the Paisas – operate there ... they have been waging a very strong fight for control of the area, for control of drug trafficking, for control of smuggling,” the police spokesman said.
The violence may be linked to Venezuelan members of Colombian gangs, the police spokesman said.
The gangs, which trace their roots to Colombian paramilitary groups that disbanded in 2008, are involved in drug trafficking have carried out several massacres.