HomeNewsReligious Statuettes Branded as El Koki for Sale in Caracas
NEWS

Religious Statuettes Branded as El Koki for Sale in Caracas

EL KOKI / 23 JUL 2021 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Salesmen in Caracas have come up with an enterprising response to the Venezuelan capital’s descent into criminal warfare: rebranding devotional statuettes as El Koki, the gang boss responsible for the mayhem.

Seen at stalls dedicated to Venezuela’s spiritualist tradition, the colorful statuettes of El Koki and his gang are priced at $20 for six, according to an image shared on Twitter by Impacto Venezuela on July 20.

Carlos Luis Revete, alias “El Koki,” is the longtime crime boss of Caracas’ populous Cota 905 neighborhood. His gunmen have been battling Venezuelan security forces since his aggressive takeover of the neighboring La Vega district in late 2020.

Revete and his lieutenants have seen their notoriety take off by evading capture through either cunning or corruption, even as their images are plastered over police ‘Wanted’ notices.

SEE ALSO: El Coqui’s Victory – An Urban Invasion in Caracas

But these figures may also reveal a potential leadership change-up in the gang. Koki himself is featured, as is his lieutenant, Carlos Alfredo Calderón Martínez, alias “El Vampi." But the third man believed to control the gang, Garbis Ochoa Ruiz, alias “El Garbis," and several other known lieutenants are absent.

Instead, the collection features “Delcy” and “Iris V” – a mocking reference to Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and Vice President of the National Assembly, Iris Varela.

Rodríguez was instrumental in creating controversial “Peace Zones," which ceded territorial control to El Koki's gang in 2017. Varela has been alleged to have had murky dealings with prison gang bosses, known as pranes, during her time as prisons minister from 2011 to 2020.

Conveniently, the figurines can be bought alongside devotional candles.

InSight Crime Analysis

Featuring blonde bouffant hairdos and pink crop tops, the statuettes are far from a true likeness of Koki and his alleged political patrons. It is unlikely this tongue-in-cheek ploy extended beyond a few stalls but it is a testament to how the crime boss is carving his place in Venezuela’s criminal folklore.

The models originate in Caracas’ underground legend of the corte malandra, or delinquent court – a spiritualist cult that idolizes a group of mythical bandits. Contemporary gangsters appeal to these criminal spirits for protection when confronting security forces, rival gangs, or prison sentences.

At the heart of the corte malandra is Ismael Sánchez. “Ismaelito” is said to have been a thief from a Caracas slum who stole from the rich to give to the poor, and on his death was called to the service of the neo-indigenous goddess María Lionza, according to El Estímulo.

The repackaging of this syncretic Robin Hood under Koki’s name is a nod to Revete’s self-image as a champion of Caracas’ urban poor. Despite his penchant for violence and extortion, the gangster is seen as a benefactor by some in the state-neglected community of the Cota 905, where he has been known to arrange neighborhood parties and distribute food and toys.

Meanwhile, the satirical labeling of two of Koki's gang after Delcy Rodríguez and Iris Varela likely refers to these politicians’ reputation as protectors and enablers of gang leaders.

SEE ALSO: Carlos Luis Revete, alias ‘El Koki’

Cults around criminal “saints” are a common feature of narcoculture across Latin America, reflecting the ambiguous social status of criminality in a region beset by massive inequality and abuses of formal power.

Perhaps the most well-known is Jesús Malverde – a 19th-century bandit from Sinaloa, north Mexico, now worshipped as a narco-saint or “angel of the poor.”

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELN / 8 MAR 2019

Drug trafficking, battles between state forces and armed groups, extortion and illegal gold mining have transformed southern Venezuela into a…

CARTEL DE LOS SOLES / 10 APR 2012

The trial of Walid Makled, a drug kingpin who claims that he worked with Venezuela's political and military elite, has…

COLOMBIA / 21 AUG 2015

Venezuela has deployed troops to its border and called for crisis talks with Colombia after an attack against its security…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.