Caught between gangs and Venezuelan police in Cota 905

The 300,000 residents of the Cota 905 shantytown perched on the hills of western Caracas are no strangers to violence.

Their neighbourhood, abandoned by police in 2017, has been run by gangs. There had been a few clashes in recent months, but nothing like the all-out fighting that drove Ines (not her real name – she like others in this piece asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation) to flee her home in the middle of a gunfight.

Fearful of both the gangs and the police, Ines and her 16-year-old daughter took what clothes and food they could and left the school. They walked several hours before taking refuge at a relative’s home.

Neighbours said they saw the police leaving the preschool with their belongings, including a refrigerator and a washing machine. The Venezuelan information ministry which speaks for the police did not respond to a request for comment.

The fighting was still ongoing. Explosions could be heard in nearby middle-class neighbourhoods. Stray bullets were a concern. A woman was wounded in front of one of Caracas’ main markets, Quinta Crespo, and the nearby Southern Cemetery was also considered dangerous.

More than 3,100 officers from different forces were sent to Cota 905 and other areas affected by the fighting, according to the country’s minister of interior, justice and peace, Carmen Melendez.

“The State Security Organizations continue to be deployed in the areas violated by these criminals and will not rest until they recover absolute control,” she tweeted July 8th.

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