Peace and life in Ocumare del Tuy

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…just look at all the peace and life on that wall.

Last week, the city of Ocumare del Tuy (southern Miranda State) became the latest focal point in the violence that affects Venezuela.

It all started when the CICPC (investigative police) carried out a raid and killed three members of a important criminal gang of the area known as “Los Orejones”. Hours later, all activity in the city was halted by a public protest in response to this incident. Relatives of the deceased accused the CICPC of killing the three men in their sleep.

One of the victims, 32-year old Fernando José Martínez Terán (a.k.a. Fernandito) was a member of the government-promoted Peace and Life Movement, which I wrote about in a recent post. According to the CICPC, he was still involved in robberies and murders.

But that was just the beginning, as Los Orejones decided to strike back.

The band launched a full attack against a post of the Tomas Lander Municipal Police. Thanks to their superior firepower, they easily overwhelmed the local officers and wounded three of them, including Polilander’s director. After four hours and the assistance of National Guard, the firefight was over. But Los Orejones didn’t stop there: Through messages on the Internet, the gang has promised revenge and has challenged the militarization of the town which came after the incident. Days later, they attacked a Miranda State Police post with Molotov cocktails.

The incident has thrust the Peace and Life Movement’s activities into the spotlight. The case of Fernandito isn’t the first, and some in the opposition are asking questions about the true nature of the movement. After all, the Movement is almost a defacto Vice-Ministry. During a TV interview last year, the head of the Peace and Life Movement (and Interior Vice-Minister) Jose Vicente Rangel Avalos acknowleged that they have met with at least 280 criminal gangs of Miranda State, something that brings plenty of questions to mind…

As these series of incidents came and went, the crime situation in Ocumare del Tuy remains, and the attention will shift to the new Pacification Plan promoted by the government. Its implementation, however, has been postponed in order to allow for more consultations.