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BRIEF

Salsa, Gunshots and Impunity at Venezuela Megabanda Funeral

MEGABANDAS / 6 JUN 2019 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

A well-known salsa singer’s performance at the wake of members of a so-called megabanda in Caracas underscores how far criminal impunity goes in Venezuela.

On June 1, Salsa singer Alex D’Castro visited Venezuela and performed in Cota 905, a populous Caracas neighborhood where the funeral of two alleged criminals was being held. The fallen members were alias “Alexito” and alias “Cara Cortada,” both members of a powerful megabanda (a gang with over 100 members) led by Carlos Luis Revette, alias “El Coqui,” with whom the salsa singer was photographed.

As another tribute to the criminals who died in clashes with authorities, bursts of shots fired into the air flooded the neighborhood for more than half an hour in the so-called “peace zone.” This area is named for the agreement reached between the Venezuelan government and criminal gangs. As part of the arrangement, the gangs stop engaging in criminal activities in exchange for the end of police operations in the area.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela Megabanda Shatters ‘Pax Mafiosa’ By Murdering Rivals

As one of the most wanted criminals in Venezuela, authorities have been after El Coqui since 2013. He heads the megabanda that controls Cota 905, which serves as the group’s base of operations.

There is a “pax mafiosa” of sorts, as InSight Crime previously reported, between the administration of embattled President Nicolás Maduro and El Coqui’s gang. In August 2017, Delcy Rodríguez, then the president of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, even met with El Coqui on his home turf in Cota 905.

InSight Crime Analysis

The sound of salsa and flying bullets in Cota 905 echoes the level of impunity with which this megabanda operates in the Venezuelan capital, to the point that they hire an international singer to honor two of their fallen members.

In a city like Caracas, where musical shows with international artists have disappeared due to insecurity, megabandas may virtually be the only organizations left to be able to put on such a show. This is yet another example of the power and influence of some criminal groups and its members, such as El Coqui, in addition to the government’s complicity in their activities.

The high profile of El Coqui, who has appeared in several photos and videos enjoying parties despite leading the list of Venezuela’s most wanted criminals, hasn’t led to his capture so far. And it is unlikely to do so. He is believed to be protected through an agreement with members of the Maduro administration despite the crimes that his group continues to commit.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela: A Mafia State?

A recent shooting featuring high-powered weapons on June 1 again highlighted the economic capacity and firepower that these gangs have. This is despite the fact that, for many common criminals, shooting a bullet is simply unaffordable.

Douglas Rico, the head of Venezuela’s criminal investigation unit (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas – CICPC), confirms in his statement on the shooting that authorities will simply not take these matters seriously.

Rico stated that only the Twitter accounts where the videos were broadcast will be investigated. He makes no mention of investigating the facts and excuses the actions of the suspected criminals by arguing that “no injuries or deaths were reported” during the shooting.

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