Nearly four months after Venezuelan security forces killed gang boss and public enemy No. 1, El Koki, police in his former Caracas stronghold have suffered two separate grenade attacks – in what appears to be a ramping up of violence.
During the early morning hours of May 29, three officers were injured in a grenade attack on their post in Cota 905, a neighborhood in the western part of the capital. About two weeks earlier, two officers were injured when masked men lobbed grenades at a police station in the Mata de Caucho section of Cota 905, online news outlet Efecto Cocuyo reported.
According to Venezuelan investigative journalist Román Camacho, the attacks were carried out by former lieutenants of Carlos Luis Revete, alias "El Koki." The two men, known by their aliases, "Garbis" and "Vampi," controlled large parts of Cota 905 until El Koki's death in February. Since then, they were reportedly on the run.
InSight Crime spoke to a police commander in western Caracas who confirmed that Garbis was suspected of being behind the latest attack.
Authorities responded to the earlier May 19 grenade attack. Venezuela’s criminal investigation unit (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas – CICPC) raided Cota 905, as well as the nearby neighborhoods of La Vega, El Valle and El Cementerio.
The operation reportedly left three people dead and one police officer injured. One resident of Cota 905, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals, told InSight Crime that “one of those killed worked as a hitman for El Koki.”
SEE ALSO: El Koki, Venezuela's Most Notorious Gang Boss, Shot Dead
After El Koki was driven out of Cota 905 in July 2021, security forces had maintained a strong presence in the neighborhood, including mounting the police station targeted in the grenade attack. However, two residents of Cota 905 and La Vega told InSight Crime that patrols and the presence of authorities had diminished since early 2022.
“The police are not even protecting their own stations," one of the residents told InSight Crime. "They normally had guards outside the offices, but they stopped doing that about a month ago."
InSight Crime Analysis
El Koki's ousting was touted as a move that would bring peace to Cota 905, but the grenade attacks suggest otherwise.
SEE ALSO: Why did Venezuela's Peace Zones Backfire So Badly?
El Koki ruled the neighborhood until July 2021, when he was driven out of Caracas. In the preceding months, authorities made a series of raids on Cota 905 after El Koki's gunmen attempted to take over a nearby neighborhood. Police shot and killed El Koki in February after a three-day manhunt.
While Garbis or Vampi are reported to be behind the latest attacks, it is unclear whether they are able to exert the same type of control over Cota 905 as El Koki, who was once regarded as untouchable there. From 2014 to 2020, Cota 905 was the center of drug trafficking, contraband and weapons trafficking for much of the city. In 2014, the area was declared a Peace Zone (Zona de Paz), in a government campaign to remove security forces from gang-controlled neighborhoods in exchange for these groups keeping the peace.
El Koki's death and the absence of his lieutenants in Cota 905 provided authorities an opportunity to maintain control in a crucial criminal stronghold. But their haphazard presence appears to have in the interim allowed the gang leaders to exert some level of authority once again.