Crime & Justice

Residents flee violence-hit areas in Venezuelan capital

By Bárbara Agelvis and Nicole Kolster

Caracas, July 9 (EFE).- Dozens of Caracas residents have fled their homes to escape raging gun battles between security forces and organized crime gangs in the Venezuelan capital region that have killed many.

Nonprofit Otro Enfoque has opened doors of its headquarters to accommodate about 30 children and young people from the areas worst affected by the violence in Caracas.

The violence broke out on Wednesday evening in several areas after the police started an operation to dismantle the armed groups.

Carolina Terán, who works for the NGO, told EFE that youngsters saw the armed groups firing at people.

“They could see some of the wounded dying (…) Then they became very nervous and began to leave the community,” she added.

The nonprofit set up a shelter in its headquarters, located in a safe area, for the 30 young people they are helping.

“Many of them have different realities, they do not have a family or their parents are not here in Venezuela,” she said.

According to Terán, several of them had “precarious” housing conditions, and others “lived in the street.”

Most of them refuse to speak about the issue.

Terán said they were “very scared” when they arrived at the NGO headquarters.

A youth said he lived in one of the areas “at war.”

He said he fled to another part of the capital amid “gross violations” of security.

The young man, who preferred to remain anonymous, said criminals kidnapped a person living close to his sector and asked for the presence of public prosecutors in exchange for releasing her.

“Understand that people are not supporting them, it’s that we are literally in a war situation,” he added.

The criminals “enter the houses very often,” he said.

“What scares me is that this is the modus operandi they are going to use to come into houses,” he said.

Another man anonymously told EFE that “there are (police) officers who have entered the houses” to steal.

He said they took a router away from a woman and dollars from another family.

“In other houses, they go to see if there is anyone (inside), ransack the place and leave.”

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