Venezuela Ramps Up Anti-Crime Offensive, Targets Hoarding and Contraband

Caracas, Venezuela (VA) – Venezuelan security forces executed major raids on criminal groups engaged in hoarding and contraband on Sunday morning as part of the Bolivarian government’s ongoing, national anti-gang offensive.

Under the banner of “Operation Liberation and Protection of the People” (OLP), hundreds of police and Bolivarian armed forces personnel conducted operations in four states, confiscating illegal drugs, firearms, hoarded goods, and other contraband, as well as arresting dozens.

In Zulia state, 718 security personnel participated in a raid in the municipality of Guajira, uncovering a cache containing 176,000 liters of gasoline, 1,260 liters of vehicle oil, 2,000 cases of beer, as well as nearly 20 tons of essential food items, including two tons of sugar, three tons of rice, and a half ton of cooking oil. Additionally, 10 individuals suspected of hoarding were arrested.

“These seizures represent a hard blow to the bachaqueo fomented by the economic war in the country,” affirmed Interior Minister Gustavo González López, referring to the associated practices of hoarding, contraband, and speculation by individuals and private businesses that have generated chronic shortages and exacerbated inflation.

Meanwhile, in the north-central state of Aragua, a further 700 security personnel were mobilized in the municipality of Girardot, arresting 26 individuals suspected of various offenses, including drug trafficking, resisting authority, and illegal possession of firearms. Authorities additionally recovered three presumably stolen cars and two motorcycles, as well as 331 grams of cocaine.

In the western state of Portuguesa, authorities arrested eight individuals suspected of drug trafficking as well as five others wanted for various alleged offenses. Several vehicles were also recovered as well as 30 packages of alleged drugs amounting to 1.5 kilograms.

In southwestern Barinas state, state security forces raided the Tabacare socialist city, reportedly taking down four gangs and arresting 21, including two Colombian citizens wanted on homicide charges. Authorities recovered 11 homes said to have been occupied illegally by gangs, seven presumably stolen vehicles as well as 22 packages of suspected drugs.

Initiated on July 13 with mass arrests of alleged gang members, OLP has won widespread public support with 87% of Venezuelans professing to be in support of the anti-crime operation, according to a recent poll by the independent polling firm Hinterlace.

Nevertheless, OLP has been criticized by certain sectors, most notably the communal councils of the “Dream of a Giant” Commune, who have accused security forces of utilizing disproportionate force against poor communities.

In response to these criticisms, Interior Minister Gonzalez asserted that security forces are guided by values “based on peace and respect for human rights”.

For his part, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro enthusiastically praised the latest raids, promising that OLP will continue until it covers “every last corner of the country”.

The Head of State additionally pledged to redouble security efforts against the illicit practice of reselling known as bachaqueo as part of his government’s overall fight “to put an end to the menacing plan that they have against our economy.”

Resellers, or bachaqueros, make a living by buying key products at government-regulated supermarkets and selling them on the black market for outrageous profit. The vendors, often from poor neighborhoods, work in groups that have been likened to mafias for the way they will rig the market and bribe distributors to provoke scarcity. They are also known to pay people to wait in line at state supermarkets in order to access the carefully regulated merchandise, causing lines to be much longer than necessary.

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello has also urged socialist party (PSUV) mayors to take steps to confront bachaqueo in their municipalities.

Venezuela Flag Image Source: Nicolas Raymond, Flickr, Creative Commons

Venezuela Flag
Image Source: Nicolas Raymond, Flickr, Creative Commons

“Comrade mayors, we are going to find [them], we are going to enforce the law, [and] we are going to do it because they are enemies of the people. Let’s unite with the people to defend their food and their food supply and their children,” Cabello said.

Written by By LUCAS KOERNER for Venezuelanalysis.com