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Thursday, 29 October, 2020

Among the fear and courage: that is how neighbors in Mata de Coco live

The neighbors of Mata de Coco (Miranda state) already witnessed a massacre in 2018 where 11 victims got killed. Now, with no cops in sight, the pots and pans resounded on the night of October 9 in this residential complex as a distress signal. The day before, armed individuals stripped an entire building.

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On October 9, Theodora – a fictitious name to protect her identity – returned home before sunset. She was talking with her neighbor in the common areas of the building when her eight-year-old son warned her: “the bad men are coming.” After the alert, everyone went home. The place became desolating and silent.

Teodora lives with her son in the Mata de Coco housing development in Ocumare del Tuy, Miranda State. On the night of October 8, armed individuals ransacked the apartments in Building 18. They even took the televisions before the disconcerted eyes of their owners.

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The next day the bad men returned, as the son of Teodora warned. For the second night in a row, the neighbors lived in terror of the bullets, but this time they made themselves felt, and while listening to the detonations (robbers shoot guns into the air to announce their presence and actions), they banged on pots and pans.

“The pots rumbled loudly. It was a way of protesting against the insecurity and, at the same time, asking for help, but no authority listened to us. That night I hid with my son under the bed, and we slept there. We are desperate,” says Teodora.

Like Teodora and her son, the neighbors of Mata de Coco are afraid. Although the community has always been under the rule of a gang, what is happening in the last three months, and especially this week, left them speechless. “This is ugly,” Theodora says as she clings to a crucifix to feel protected.

“El Indio” and his band

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A police source consulted said that a group of thugs that has its center of operations in the sector of Los Alpes has been acting outside the law in the urbanization Mata de Coco, as well as in Aragüita and the Simon Bolivar neighborhood of Ocumare del Tuy. According to the police source, the band is led by Eduardo Jose Solorzano Aquino, aka as “El Indio.”

On the morning of July 15, 2020, the criminal organization got accused of murdering retired Venezuelan Army Captain Hilmer Gregorio Sequera, 49, after forcibly removing him from his residence in Mata de Coco.

Witnesses told the police that before dawn, armed individuals evicted all the residents of Tower 39 from their apartments and asked who the spokesperson was.

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In Chavista communities, the spokesperson is supposedly closer to regime authorities and can receive complaints about public services and similar concerns. But some also see them, possibly, as a regime informant.

Sequera responded that it was him, and under threat of death, they moved him to his residence, searched all areas of the building, found his gun, his credentials, and took him away by force.

Then, a few meters from the building, they tied him up and killed him. The murderers also stole two televisions, a computer, a laptop, three fans, three telephones, a blender, food, and the military weapon, a Browning brand, a nine mm caliber, serial 36011.

The police also accuse this gang of killing Admiral Viberto Quinteiro Perez (55 years old) when he moved from Valencia to Ocumare del Tuy to buy a van offered on Facebook. The military man got ambushed by the alleged sellers, who turned out to be criminals.

In 2018 there was a massacre in Mata de Coco, and 11 persons were killed. Police still do not venture here.

Teodora has heard about “El Indio,” but does not want to delve into the man. She assures that out of fear, the neighbors will not denounce him.

“If the police know who they are, why do not look for them? Here, we can only entrust ourselves to God,” exclaims the woman with the crucifix still in her hand.

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