Nine killed in Venezuela crime crackdown — militaryWednesday, May 11, 2016
CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) – Nine people were killed during a crackdown by Venezuelan security forces on crime around the capital of the crisis-hit country, the military said.
With tensions high as the country grapples with an economic and political crisis, authorities said they deployed 3,000 troops and police in and around Caracas to go after criminal gangs.
"We have a toll of nine people killed. They died when they confronted" security forces, said Sergio Rivero, a general in the National Guard military police, presenting a report on television late Tuesday.
He said those killed were members of criminal gangs. Authorities seized rifles and grenades during the raids.
Rivero added that officers arrested 15 other suspects wanted by the courts for homicide, drug trafficking and robbery.
They also detained 80 Colombians who were in the country illegally, he said.
President Nicolas Maduro said in the broadcast that Colombian gangs in Venezuela had been carrying out kidnappings and drug-trafficking along with Venezuelan criminals.
He claimed the gangs with links to neighbouring Colombia were "paramilitary" in structure and were out to "destabilize" his leadership.
The raids come at a delicate time for Maduro, whose opponents have launched proceedings to hold a referendum on removing him from office.
They blame him for an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food and basic goods. Venezuelans are also suffering electricity shortages.
Venezuela is ranked by the United Nations as one of the most violent countries in the world.
The country's state prosecution service says 4,696 murders were recorded in Venezuela in the first quarter of this year.
Non-government groups such as Human Rights Watch say security forces have carried out extra-judicial executions and arbitrary detentions under an anti-crime program launched by Maduro last year.
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