By Glorimar Fernandez.
Besides the constant anxiety of the residents of the sectors surrounding Cota 905, in Caracas, are living due to the threat posed by the El Coqui gang, there is the overflight of a drone over the nearby communities, especially over the area of El Cementerio, according to testimonies given by neighbors to El Pitazo, this Friday, February 5.
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Two residents of the El Leon neighborhood commented that they saw a drone flying over the area between 6:30 pm and 7:00 pm. It has not been possible to observe who is operating it, but they say it belongs to the criminal group that rules the area. They said that the drone does not belong to any law-enforcement agency affiliated with the Maduro regime because, if so, they -meaning the local crime lords- would have already taken it down.
Several large scale police operations to try and capture El Coqui have ended in bloodbaths, with officers not being able to advance beyond the first houses lining La Cota before heavy rifle fire pins down and forces then, again, into an embarrassing retreat and another black eye for the Maduro regime.
With drones, guns, and cunning, El Coqui has managed not only to evade police action but to become a sort of anti-Maduro folk hero in Caracas, even if he never leaves his La Cota neighborhood.
When asked why El Coqui has implemented such vast security measures, the neighbors are quick to answer: drug sales. The boss does not want his men or customers bothered by the violent law enforcement of the regime.
“The thugs have a distribution center, in the middle of the street, at the end of Los Alpes street. They have tables with drugs and about 20 criminals with all kinds of weapons,” said one of the residents who, for security reasons, asked for his identity to be kept secret.
Control of the area
Human presence, not only drones or CC cameras, is essential to El Coqui continuing operations, neighbors add.
Locals emphasized that they believe the state security forces cannot enter the area since gariteros (literally, sentry-box men) of the gang have taken up positions at strategic points. Neighbors worry that if the guards perceive a possible intervention, they will use the neighbors as human shields.
The gariteros perform the function of surveillance of the neighborhood as if they were in a sentry box. But the sentry box does not physically exist at the entrance of some zones such as La Vereda, Altamira, and Las Luces. “They place barricades to avoid the entering of the police,” said another person.
On January 28, the latest shootout in Cota 905 took place, with criminals using their powerful weapons against police officers that were trying, again, to apprehend the boss or, at least, enter the zone. The confrontation, which occurred at night, was because earlier, eight officers of the Bolivarian National Police entered the Los Laureles sector (located at the entrance to Cota 905) with the excuse of settling a domestic dispute. The Special Police FAES is notoriously violent, so much so that the United Nations has recommended its disbanding since 2017.
The so-called gariteros saw the movement of the uniformed agent and ambushing them, keeping them surrounded. The pinned-down police had no alternative than to ask for reinforcements and rescue. Three hours of shooting elapsed before the police officers got rescued, and to date, no governmental authority has made any statement on this event.
During the shootout, nobody dared set foot outside their homes. Neighbors hit the deck or locked themselves up in their bathrooms. Once again, El Coqui had the run of the whole neighborhood. Days after, residents began quitting the hood to live with family and friends elsewhere. A new attack, they say, is imminent.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho.