CARACAS, Venezuela — The inhabitants of Caracas’ Cota 905 found themselves at the epicenter of a three-day gang war as militants formerly allied with the Bolivarian Revolution unleashed an unprecedented wave of terror against the population in an effort to expand their territory.
Their clash with the socialist regime lasted the entire weekend, resulting in at least 30 casualties.
The main gang at the center of the conflict is led by Carlos Luis Revete, also known as “Koki” or “Coqui.” His group rapidly rose to power and influence following a non-aggression pact between armed gangs and the socialist regime in 2013 that allowed gangs free reign over the territories under their control in exchange for a reduction in violence.
Cota 905 is the colloquial name given to Guzmán Blanco Avenue, an extremely dangerous and crime-riddled neighborhood and crucial road in Caracas that connects the western parishes of El Paraiso, La Vega, and Santa Rosalia. In 2017, the socialist regime declared Cota 905 a “Peace Zone,” an arrangement allegedly intended to disarm the gangs in exchange for economic favors — the results were far from the alleged intention.
Koki’s gang began its latest expansionist campaign on July 7, unleashing an astounding amount of ammunition against the population and sowing panic in the entire city of Caracas. At least three women were injured by stray bullets at the start of the conflict. This is not the first time Koki has acted upon the inhabitants of Cota 905, who have now lived for years in a constant state of fear. During these events, Koki’s gang rained gunfire from the Cota 905 sector into the neighboring sectors, hurting random civilians. Two persons were injured by stray bullets in the Baralt avenue, and a woman received a gunshot wound on her shoulder when she was in the Quinta Crespo market. An 11-year-old child was also injured by a stray bullet, the child died on Sunday, July 11.
Video de lo que están viviendo los vecinos de La Cota 905 y El Paraíso en estos momentos. Familias enteras tiradas en el piso para evitar las balas. Caracas lleva más de siete horas sitiada por bandas criminales. pic.twitter.com/9nSlaKh5YR
— Daniel Blanco (@DanielBlancoPaz) July 8, 2021
Con Simonovis esto no pasaba: pic.twitter.com/EiDRERvHH7
— Daniel Lara Farías 🏳️🌈 (@DLaraF) July 8, 2021
Clashes between Koki’s gang and Venezuela’s armed forces have become increasingly recurrent in recent times, with at least five of them occurring in the first months of 2021.
The regime’s initial response was complete silence and an information blackout by the regime’s media apparatus as if nothing had occurred. Venezuelan local media has all but been censored, and we – as with many other countries under authoritarian regimes, such as Cuba – have to rely on social media and our precarious and slow internet connectivity to inform and stay informed. Despite Big Tech’s proclivity for censorship and context-creation, they’re, regrettably, kind of a necessary evil amidst the socialist regime’s control of regular media.
As all of this unfolded on July 7, the military high command held a party in the premises of La Carola airbase in Caracas, giving Venezuelans their own local twist on the tale of Nero and the Great Fire of Rome.
#Caracas: #Jul07 Mientras siguen los enfrentamientos en la Cota 905 que dejaron hasta ahora una persona fallecida, el Alto Mando Militar celebra los ascensos en la Carlota, en una fiesta que apenas comienza. Vídeo 1 pic.twitter.com/XylDcmHTLb
— Odell López Escote (@OdeLopez) July 8, 2021
The socialist regime finally responded by deploying the Bolivarian Police’s FAES Special Actions Force against Koki’s militants in an operation designated as Gran Cacique Indio Guaicaipuro. FAES is the Maduro regime’s death squads whom the United Nations has denounced for its extrajudicial killings.
Following a series of clashes between both forces, which included a complete power blackout in Cota 905, the Socialist Regime announced the success of the operation and the “liberation” of the areas under Koki’s control. Koki remains at large and the socialist regime has placed a $500,000 bounty (approximately 1,695,825,955,000.00 Bolivars at the regime’s official exchange rate) on his head. As a result of the constant gang war shootings, inhabitants of Cota 905 have begun to abandon their homes out of fear for their lives and in search of safe refuge, causing a micro inner migrant crisis right in the capital.
As expected of the Socialist regime, it has begun using the sheer reach of its media apparatus to establish the narrative that these gangs are being led by the Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, who is currently exiled in Spain — going as far as to accuse Koki of being a conspirative armed paramilitary agent of Colombia and Washington. No evidence exists linking López, the leader of the socialist Popular Will opposition party, with any of the events taking place in Cota 905. The socialist regime arrested opposition leader Freddy Guevara and accused interim president Juan Guaidó and other opposition figureheads of being behind the gang wars, presenting WhatsApp screenshots allegedly taken from Guevara’s phone as proof of the opposition’s involvement — and even presenting ‘proof’ of an elaborate plan that included the use of drones to assassinate Nicolas Maduro.
I’ve lived in Caracas for more than 22 years now, and during that time I grew up with one important lesson always resounding in my head: never get close to a window once you hear gunshots in the distance.
One of the “perks” of living in Caracas is that you quickly learn how to differentiate between the sound of fireworks and the sound of gunfire — a “skill” everyone acquired here even at an early age. Thanks to that peculiar ability, you know best to stay away from windows and their line of sight, as one stray bullet can very much be the end of you. Even though I do not live in Cota 905, I lived in El Paraiso for a few years, and there, just like in the area I’ve been residing at since 2001, the sound of gunfire at night is often a common occurrence.
There are talks of Venezuela’s overall situation improving recently, mainly because of a pseudo-dollarization and a dismantling of several of the fierce currency controls and draconian regulations imposed by the socialist regime which put us into this mess into the first place — but the truth is that life in this country is ever so miserable.
Nothing I’ve experienced over the past two decades of my life even begins to compare to the urban warzone of the past weekend. Caracas is a city already collapsed and crippled by an ongoing gasoline shortage, a Chinese coronavirus pandemic, and now with some of its western areas turned into deadly warzones. While those with access to foreign currency can bubble themselves from the sheer force for the collapse of socialist Venezuela, many have to live in a constant state of hunger, fear, and terror.
It’s worth remembering that Venezuela has had a complete gun ban since 2012, which has not stopped armed gangs (or the regime) from subjugating and dominating the populace. America’s Second Amendment, along with the First, is one of the things many of us down here look up to — and if there’s any further lesson to be had from our disaster beyond the clamor of “please don’t repeat our mistakes” is that those are two Amendments that are very much worth fighting to uphold and protect — they’re pristine ideals many of us down here can only barely dream of.
There are no heroes to be found in these clashes. At the end of the day, this is an ongoing conflict between the socialist regime and its death squad versus armed criminal gangs that were allowed to steadily flourish under the tacit blessing of the Venezuelan regime — unfortunately, the residents of Cota 905, and by extension, those of Caracas, are the ones caught in the crossfire, and the ones that suffer the costs of this terrible uncontrolled violence.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.