By Glorimar Fernandez and Frank Hernandez.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho.
“In La Vega, we are in a panic,” a neighbor said after the violent confrontation occurred in the weekend in that neighborhood in Caracas, starring by officers from the Special Forces of the National Polices. Better known by its deadly acronym, FAES. In the operative, 23 persons were killed, according to the human rights NGO, Provea. 19 died in the operative, another in a shooting during a party.
Deploying police met with heavy resistance and had to call in reinforcements, including a light tank and other armored vehicles. Agents in motorcycles ascended the flanks of the neighborhood, which sits on a hilltop.
Neighbors interviewed spoke of at least two violent events conflating from Friday, January 8 until Saturday 9 in La Vega: the FAES raid and a shootout in a party. Law enforcement has not provided a statement or an explanation for the bloodshed, but off the record, they maintain that the killings at the party are unrelated to the raid.
Maduro regime has cordoned one of the coroner offices, relatives say. Families said it was for preventing them from obtaining information about the victims. They were also informed that they could not carry out funeral acts since the bodies were taken directly to the cemetery in burials paid for by the State.
FAES was created by Maduro in 2017, personally. He has donned the polemical corps urban camo uniform in live television while shouting “maximum support to the FAES.”
The top human rights commissioner from the United Nations, Michelle Bachelet, asked him to disband the group. The group has been involving in several denouncements about human rights violations.
One of the victims was a 50-year-old music teacher, identified as Nelson Villalta, killed while standing on his doorstep by one of the criminals, who was at the time, confronting FAES officers.
The wife of Villalta said the man taught at the Simon Bolivar Music Foundation and that during the COVID-19 pandemic, he had secured a second job as a hotel security guard. She noted that she is now considering moving out of La Vega, fearing her safety. She demanded justice for her late husband and an end to local gangs.
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The shooting continued until Saturday, neighbors stated. Both neighbors and analysts ascribe the latest shootouts to the fracturing of an alliance between local gang boss El Coqui and the Maduro regime.
The deadly list
So far, NGOs and El Pitazo have managed to compile the names, circumstances surrounding their deaths, and other data on nine fatal La Vega victims:
Yerikson Jose Garcia Duarte. The 32-year-old man was partaking with friends in the El Hueco alley in the San Nicolas neighborhood of Los Mangos de La Vega when he got killed at 9:30 pm. Friday by a group of men dressed in black. Witnesses report that the men came shooting at everyone they saw on the street, and although the boys managed to flee, Garcia Duarte was sitting on the sidewalk and got hit by the bullets. He was shot in the back and chest, as well as three times in the head, FAES trademark pattern.
Raul Antonio Lira Sanchez. At 25, he was an assistant mechanic at the Ministry of Housing and Habitat. He was at a party in Los Mangos when he went out at 9:45 pm on a motorcycle to buy a bottle, along with another unidentified person. Shortly after they left, they were intercepted by the armed men, who murdered them both. Lira’s body was shot six times, almost the same number on García corpse.
Rafael Martinez Rojas. He was a bus collector and 23 years old. At 6:00 pm, he was seen on Los Cangilones Street. Family members believed he was in police custody when he died, as a friend he was talking to on the phone heard the moment when the young man struggled with strangers and the sound of keys. His body was found the next day in the morgue. The Cicpc claims that his body was found at 7:00 pm on a public street.
Richard Alejandro Chile Cabello. The 20-year-old was returning from work at a car wash in El Paraiso on Friday at 11:00 am when a friend intercepted him on the way and warned him not to go upstairs because of the ongoing police operation. “No man, I come from work. I am going to rest,” was what he said and continued his journey upwards to his home on El Carmen Street. Family members learned of his death through social networks, even if his corpse showed up in clothes that did not correspond to those he was wearing the last time they saw him.
Julio Alexander Pino Moreno (23) and Yeferson Jose Moreno Plazola (28). They were wheelbarrow boys in the Coche market, and they shared an abode with 13 people.
Pino Moreno was intercepted by the FAES when he was coming down with his wife and one-year-old daughter. The officials walled the woman and forced her husband to lie down on the floor. Officers executed him in front of his family. For his part, Moreno Plazola was at home when the agents broke in and forcibly removed all the women and children. Shortly after, they moved his body with a shot to the head.
Carlos Alfredo Hernández Hurtado. The 17-year-old had dropped out of school and worked in a butcher shop since he was 15. He left his house to buy cheese and then meet a friend when he was intercepted and killed on Independencia Street.
Jonathan Useche. Also, 17 years old, he was taken out of his house hooded by FAES agents and appeared the next day in the morgue. A similar event occurred with another man identified as Nestor Duarte.
Richard Alfonso Francia Francia. He was 29 years old and was a fruit seller in the public market of Quinta Crespo.
Families claim that Richard was included in the list of deaths in La Vega, when, in fact, he was killed by four shots in front of the Novo Express Hotel in El Paraiso, in a nice area of town about one kilometer from La Vega. They presume he could have been a victim of a robbery since he arrived naked at the morgue. Timing, however, suggests he could be tragic collateral damage from the bloody police operation nearby.