Venezuela’s most wanted had been cornered in a stand-off with troops loyal to the government
On Monday January 15th, Venezuelan special forces arrested five members of a group led by the rebel police officer who had been on the run for the last six months. The capture followed a deadly early-morning assault in a neighborhood outside the city of Caracas. Said gathering ended with at least two officers dead, five injured, and six “terrorists” diseased, the government affirmed in an official statement.
Another official document was released 24 hours later revealing that the group’s leader, Oscar Perez, had been killed.
A previous assault was made public early Monday by Perez himself, who posted various videos on social media, including one in which he appears with his face covered in blood. “They are firing at us with RPG, grenades and grenade launchers, snipers”, Perez says in one of the videos. “There are civilians in here. We told them that we’re going to turn ourselves in and they don’t want to let us surrender. They want to kill us”, he stated in another video. In another appearance, his mother asks for political pardon for his son.
The vice-president of the ruling Socialist party, Diosdado Cabello, said on Twitter that the Police Special Action Force had launched the operation to arrest Pérez, but the security forces had "responded with fire" when two officers were wounded in the stakeout.
Iris Varela, Venezuela's minister responsible for the local prison system, celebrated the news and affirmed that police had finally cornered Perez "like a rat."
Oscar Pérez caught international attention last year after he allegedly seized a helicopter, flew over the center of Caracas, and opened fire on government buildings to protest the previous violent attack on demonstrators.
Pérez and his followers were labelled as "terrorists" by the government because of this action. The country was shook by violent protests last year in response to a deepening economic crisis and the suppression of democracy.
“We speak to you on behalf of the state. We are a coalition between military, police and civilian officials, in search of balance and against this transitory and criminal government,” Pérez said in a video in June 2017, taking responsibility for the attacks.
President Nicolas Maduro’s leftist government has described him as a “fanatic, extremist terrorist”; a manhunt had been under way for months. Some Maduro critics have questioned whether Pérez’s attacks were staged in cahoots with the government to justify a further crackdown on the opposition.
Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto