Over the weekend several “Peace Zones” (Zonas de Paz) were occupied by a joint police and military operation called “Liberation and Protection of the People.” The Cota 905 and Ciudad Tiuna in Caracas, Ciudad Betania, in Valles del Tuy, and San Casimiro, in Aragua were, according to the Minister of Interior, Justice and Peace, Gustavo González López, “Liberated form Colombian paramilitarism, criminal gangs, extortions and kidnappings.”
The “liberations” left at least 18 “maleantes” dead, 247 arrested, and several weapons and stolen cars and motorcycles seized.
The 29 “Peace Zones” were created by the government in September 2013 as part of the citizens security program “Plan Patria Segura.” In designated areas police and military would have no permanent presence, and communities would be given resources to handle their own security issues. According to analysts, the Peace Zones quickly became distension zones in which criminal gangs made themselves strong.
According to the government there is more to the organized criminal gangs operating in the area than just common crime: they are the expression of a “paramilitary infiltration,” usually linked in the official discourse to destabilization plans plotted by enemies of the revolution.
Minister González López informed in the day of the operations: “Of those arrested, 32 where foreigners with direct links to Colombian paramilitarism. The used drugs and dollars to buy the things they needed for their criminal activities, for their disgraceful objectives [fines inconfesables].”
PSUV National Assembly deputy Freddy Bernal said in an interview: “For some time now, the national intelligence [agencies] have been working on this issue and they have detected an unusual presence of Colombian paramilitaries that nobody knows where they come from and that have been occupying spaces in popular areas.”
Also PSUV deputy Elvis Amoroso argued that the Peace Zone have, in most cases, been a success, but where they have not worked it is because they have been taken over by paramilitarism.
President Maduro has even ordered the creation of a special unit of the Bolivarian Armed Forces to deal with the “infiltration of paramilitarism.” The new unit will “face, with strategic operations, the paramilitary thread of drug traffickers who are threatening and murdering the Venezuelan people.”
Maduro also informed that the “Operation for the Liberation and Protection of the People” will continue during the next days until the government defeats “Colombian paramilitarism, Colombian drug trafficking, and all that conspiracy that has come here to take over, to hire, to control, to stablish a model to Colombia.”
“I am firmly committed to dismantling it [paramilitarism], to facing it, to defeating it, with the People, with the civic-military union, with the union of all of our People,” said Maduro.