By Nataly Angulo and Mayreth Casanova in Zulia.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho in Caracas.
Grenade attacks against commercial establishments and companies in the state of Zulia are on the rise, with extortion being the most alluded motive. At least 46 attacks with explosive devices occurred in this state, located in western Venezuela, the border with Colombia, since 2018 when Omar Prieto began his mandate as governor.
In 2018, reported six cases of the use of grenades by criminal gangs dedicated to extortion. That number more than doubled in 2019 when 13 attacks got counted. In 2020 the figure increased 100% over the previous year, and as of December 14, there were 26 cases this year alone.
According to sources linked to security agencies in the state of Zulia, the grenades are brought by criminals from Colombia and bought for 200,000 Colombian pesos each ($100). Grenades are not manufactured in Venezuela but imported by the Maduro regime military industries. Police do not carry grenades, only the military and mostly during maneuvers and training. Authorities suspect drug cartels of either importing the explosives illegally from Colombia or buying them from the regime military and reports to both effects exist.
Among the attacks, one on December 9, when criminals shot at a liquor store in La Cañada de Urdaneta with an assault rifle, and three separate attacks on separate law enforcement headquarters in the regions of Cabimas, La Cañada and Tia Juana, municipality of Simon Bolivar on the eastern coast of the Maracaibo lake, stand out.
The bulk of the attacks usually takes place in November and December. The municipalities most affected are Maracaibo, Cabimas, Lagunillas, La Cañada de Urdaneta, Simon Bolivar, and San Francisco. Among the victims of the criminal groups are private clinics, hardware stores, bakeries, restaurants, shops in general, and, recently and increasingly, the headquarters of the security forces.
Regime law enforcement has grown increasingly concerned about the attacks, El Pitazo has learned. But the events are multiplying, not decreasing.
Among the plans implemented are the creation, in October 2019, of a Unit Anti-Extortion Command (additional to the National Guards anti-extortion and kidnapping command) purging the security forces of suspect elements, the restriction of motorcycle transit during the night, and the recent decree for checking of vehicles that travel throughout the state.
However, those security plans that deployed in the state did not serve to stop the attacks with explosive devices, aggressions that year by year increased 100%.