Almost Two Dozen Dead In Clash In Venezuela

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CARACAS, Venezuela, Mon. Jan 11, 2021 (Reuters) – About two dozen people died over the weekend in a clash between police and gangs in Venezuela’s capital Caracas, according to news reports and human rights activists, as the government faces international scrutiny for killings by security forces.

The bloodshed began on Friday afternoon with an operation by two police units – the Special Action Forces, known as FAES, and the Special Tactical Operations Units, known as UOTE – in the gang-ridden neighborhood of La Vega. It continued into Saturday, activist Marino Alvarado wrote on Twitter.

“It is, as far as I recall, the ‘citizen security’ operation with the largest quantity of victims,” said Alvarado, who is affiliated with the PROVEA rights group.

There did not appear to be any police deaths from the confrontations, according to Alvarado, other activists and a report in Ultimas Noticias, a newspaper seen as close to the ruling socialist party.

A United Nations fact-finding mission, which found that President Nicolas Maduro’s government had committed systematic human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity, last year called for FAES to be disbanded due to its role in extrajudicial killings.

Neither Venezuela’s information ministry nor the chief prosecutor’s office immediately replied to requests for comment on Sunday. The government has said the U.N. fact-finding mission’s report was “plagued with falsehoods.”

Venezuela is among the world’s most violent countries, with a murder rate of some 45.6 per 100,000 residents in 2020, according to the nonprofit Venezuelan Observatory of Violence.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Bill Berkrot)