Carlos Luis Revete, alias "El Koki" o "Coqui",was one of Venezuela’s most wanted criminals and leader of the “megabanda" that controls the Cota 905 and La Vega districts in western Caracas.
Despite facing charges for crimes including robbery, murder and drug trafficking since 2013, Revette enjoyed remarkable levels of impunity. The non-aggression pact he reached with Venezuelan authorities epitomized the near-total abdication of the state in the marginalized urban districts controlled by the megabandas.
In 2021, the relationship between Revette and the Venezuelan authorities became steadily more hostile. After his takeover of La Vega in early 2021, there has been a rise in large-scale operations by government forces against El Koki's gang. While these have led to many arrests in Cota 905 and La Vega, it is unclear if they made any real difference in weakening El Koki. He fled Cota 905 in mid-2021 and remained on the run until February 2022 when he was reportedly shot and killed by security forces in Venezuela's state of Aragua.
Revette was born in 1978 and grew up in the poor districts of Caracas. Little was known of his life until 2013, when he was charged with the murder of Greiber Danilo Alonso Lucas in the “Los Alpes” sector of Cota 905. At the time, Revette is believed to have been a member of a street gang known as “Los Chiches,” and killed Alonso in response to a photo on social media of Alonso posing with an enemy of the gang.
Cota 905 is one of Caracas’ most violent neighborhoods, home to a plethora of urban gangs. The district has been subjected to years of arbitrary and violent policing, creating a profound antipathy towards the security services among its residents. In this context, the gangs gained social power as de facto rule enforcers of the community.
Revette rose to prominence as lieutenant of gang leader, Jesús Alberto Ramos Calderón, alias “El Chavo,” who set out in 2014 to unite the Caracas gangs against the police. The initiative contributed to the emergence of a new criminal structure in Venezuela: “megabandas” comprising over 50 members, more organized and heavily armed than traditional street gangs and modeled on the hierarchical structure of Venezuelan prison gangs. After Ramos was killed by the criminal investigation unit (CICPC) in January 2015, Revette assumed leadership of his new megabanda in Cota 905. Revette continued Ramos’ unification project and is credited by some sources with having united the gangs of Cota 905, El Cementerio and El Valle.
In January 2015, Cota 905 was placed under the Maduro government’s “Peace Zone” policy, in which authorities ceded territorial control to criminal organizations in exchange for a reduction of violence. This truce was broken in July of the same year with the introduction of Maduro’s “Operation Liberation of the People” (Operación Liberación del Pueblo – OLP), a heavy-handed security crackdown that heralded a return to the brutal policing and human rights abuses of the past. The first OLP raid in Cota 905 resulted in the deaths of 15 people, of whom only six had criminal records. Revette was not among them, having taken shelter in a prison just hours before the raid. He continued to evade capture throughout the operation, stoking suspicions that its true targets were Revette’s rivals.
In August 2017, current vice-president and then president of the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodríguez, visited Cota 905. Residents are said to have petitioned the officials to restore the Peace Zone policy and prohibit the entry of police into the neighborhood. However, InSight Crime sources revealed that the delegation also met with Revette during the visit, and are believed to have reached a pact with the criminal leader. The Peace Zone policy was reactivated in the district and security forces withdrew.
The state’s abandonment of Cota 905 converted the district into a criminal enclave where the mega-gangs held free reign. Although the “pax mafiosa” between gangs and security forces may have reduced violence, it also allowed gangs such as Revette’s to amass heavy weaponry and consolidate their criminal economies. By 2016, Revette’s gang was estimated at between 70 and 120 members, using Cota 905 as a base of operations for extortion, kidnapping and vehicle theft. However, when including allied gangs, he may be able to call on as many as 180 men.
Within the Peace Zone of Cota 905, Revette enjoys near-total impunity, strikingly demonstrated by a video of him partying openly in the neighborhood, circulated on social media. More alarmingly, the policy seems to be enabling the megabandas to achieve ever greater levels of integration and organization. As of mid-2019, Revette was working with fellow gang leader Carlos Alfredo Calderón Martínez, alias “El Vampi,” to command a mega-gang of around 180 members with a criminal empire extending beyond Caracas.
2019 showed how safe El Koki felt he was. In June 2019, El Koki took part in the lavish funeral of one of his gang members, at which Alex de Castro, a known Puerto Rican salsa dancer and pastor led the ceremony.
In July, members of El Koki's gang attacked CICPC officials in Cota 905. Shortly after CICPC officers were ordered to leave the area, a situation which has become common when El Koki's gang is involved. The police is essentially forbidden from entering areas controlled by the gang.
In late December 2020 and early January 2021, members of El Koki's gang reportedly invaded La Vega, a popular neighborhood in Caracas which, although close to Cota 905, had never been occupied by the gang. On January 6, security forces, largely from the FAES, entered the neighborhood seemingly to chase out the gang. The operation lasted until January 9 and reportedly left 23 dead. Human rights defenders called it the largest-scale police killings in the country's history. And while many of the victims have not been formerly identified, InSight Crime was able to confirm that El Koki was not among the dead.
In July 2021, Revette carried out his most daring act of defiance so far. Members of his gang opened fire on El Helicoide, a vast building in central Caracas that acts as a headquarters for police and intelligence services and contains numerous jail cells, as well as two other police facilities. The response was swift. Government forces entered Cota 905 in a major raid that lasted five days, seemingly to capture El Koki and his top lieutenants. They took over observation posts that El Koki’s gang had built overlooking the neighborhood, burned down a known nightclub where the gang gathered and reportedly seized the house of El Vampi, Revette’s closest lieutenant.
El Koki remained on the run for months, with rumors circling about his presence in Venezuela, Colombia or even Peru. However, on February 6, 2022, news surfaced that he had been wounded in a shootout in the town of Tejerías, in Venezuela's state of Aragua. Two days later, he was dead, allegedly shot by members of Venezuela's criminal investigation unit (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas – CICPC).
Revette was wanted on numerous charges including robbery, murder and drug trafficking. His gang controls criminal activity throughout the Cota 905 district, primarily drug-dealing and vehicle theft, although they are also involved in kidnapping and extortion schemes.
The gang was known to brutally murder criminal challengers, as seen in the massacre of seven members of a rival gang in February 2019.
Police sources consulted by InSight Crime, said on condition of anonymity, that Revette also frequently used other "Peace Zones" in Los Valles del Tuy, in the state of Miranda, to find refuge.
Revette’s territory of Cota 905 is a populous hillside district in the southwest of Caracas. It was part of a gang stronghold that includes the sectors of El Cementario and El Valle. Revette’s alliances with other local gangs meant that he exercised effective control over much of this area. His two closest lieutenants were Carlos Alfredo Calderón Martínez, alias “El Vampi,” and Garbis Ochoa Ruiz, alias “El Garbis,” giving this criminal federation control of a territory of roughly 20 square kilometers in the southwest of Caracas.
In 2021, he extended his area of control to La Vega, a neighborhood of 120,000 residents in western Caracas.
Allies and Enemies
Despite being one of Venezuela’s most wanted criminals, Revette appeared to have reached an understanding with the Maduro administration that allowed him to operate with near-total impunity. Furthermore, he had shown himself willing to violently defend this pact when necessary. In February 2019, his gang killed seven members of a smaller gang led by Elvis Eduardo Castro Troya, alias “El Culón.” It is believed that the massacre was in retaliation for the killing of two soldiers by Castro Troya’s gang, which breached the terms of the “pax mafiosa” between the gangs of west Caracas and the Venezuelan state.
Revette was also willing to work together with other gang leaders to expand his criminal empire. 2019 intelligence reports suggested he reached an alliance with Carlos Alfredo Calderón Martínez, alias “El Vampi,” and Garbis Ochoa Ruiz, alias “El Garbis,” to form a still larger gang.
In 2021, his invasion of La Vega saw him ally with another gang, run by Yorfren Javier Guédez Bullones, alias “El Mayeya."
Revette’s record of evading capture while expanding his gang’s criminal activities demonstrated his ability to exploit the Maduro administration’s contradictory policing initiatives for his own purposes. He showed himself to be highly skilled in reaching agreements with both authorities and rival gangs in order to consolidate territorial control and guarantee his impunity. From 2017, the withdrawal of police from Cota 905 allowed Revette to build a high-caliber arsenal estimated at 200 grenades, 15 AR-15 rifles and 150 smaller firearms. With this, his gang rivals the firepower of security forces.
El Koki was also protected due to having widespread sympathy and loyalty among residents of Cota 905, who saw him as a benefactor.
However, his invasion of La Vega and subsequent attack on police installations over the course of 2021 appear to have ended his impunity. Security forces invaded Cota 905 and drove him out, forcing him to flee. He remained on the run for months, until being shot dead in Venezuela's state of Aragua in February 2022.