In two weeks, both elite companies dedicated themselves to “hunting” the presumed members of a gang that is attributed to the explosion of a grenade in a Barquisimeto car dealership on May 9. In all similar cases they denounce extrajudicial executions
Karina Peraza Rodriguez
After the explosion of a grenade in a car dealership in the east of Barquisimeto, Lara state, on Friday, May 9, videos and audios were broadcasted where Josué Ángel Santana, known as “Santanita”, claimed responsibility for the attacks and warned that if they did not pay the extortions, this type of event would be repeated. In the videos “Santanita” was seen flanked by two armed people.
These videos unleashed a hunt by the State security forces, which in the following two weeks murdered eight people and assured that they were all members of the «Santanita» gang. Seven of the deaths were in the hands of the Special Action Forces (FAES) and one of the National Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Command (CONAS).
On May 11, at 4:45 am, a FAES commission took over Avenue 2 in sector 1 of La Carucieña , in the Ana Soto parish. The officials arrived at a house where they found Yeferson José Mendoza Pérez, 24 years old, Geison Sneider Grimán Acosta, 27 years old, and Koli José Álvarez, 24 years old. According to their relatives, they gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day.
They assured that no one was armed at the time the FAES arrived and that at so early the morning, they were sleeping. They woke them up and although some tried to leave the house, they were returned by the officials who fired into the air so that no one would come near.
“The house and the whole area were surrounded. They were killed in the courtyard and something was thrown that detonated very loudly at least three times ”, described one of the family members who did not want to identify herself for fear of reprisals. The detonation that neighbors and relatives of La Carucieña heard was the explosion of a grenade that, according to the FAES, the men had thrown at the officials.
For approximately three hours, the police commission stayed in the community. The neighbors also reported that some belongings were stolen from the men’s house and that the three men were killed with shots to the chest.
Regarding Yeferson, it was learned that six months prior he left the Tocorón prison . He was under house arrest, but his relatives admit that he did not comply with the measure. They say that he went out to work as a fruit pulp seller.
Geison shared the same job as Yeferson and also had a criminal record. He had two daughters ages 7 and 9. While Koli made a living selling bread and orphaned a 4-year-old girl and a three-month-pregnant wife.
The day after the triple crime of La Carucieña was perpetrated , a CONAS commission arrived at 5:30 pm at the Alley Number 3, between 3rd and 4th Street of Garabatal , where they entered the home of Nerdonth Yojr Alvarado, 27 years old . According to his relatives, at the time the man was bathing.
CONAS officials removed the other five people who were in the house, including a 75-year-old woman and a 16-year-old adolescent. Half an hour later Nerdonth was killed by two shots: one in the chest and one in the scapular region. It was learned that the victim was a second cousin of «Santanita.»
«Kill the father, so that it hurts»
«They did it to hurt him, because they knew he was his father, but he has not had communication with us for a long time,» said one of «Santanita’s» sisters, at the entrance to the morgue of the Antonio María Pineda Central Hospital. of Barquisimeto.
On Thursday, May 14, in the early morning hours, FAES officials murdered Rafael Antonio Santana, 50, and Adrián Douglas Sánchez Ochoa, 33 years old. The first was the father «Santanita» and of 22 more children. The events occurred on 17th street between avenues 3 and 4 of sector 3 of La Carucieña.
Relatives said that Rafael Antonio was taken from his home to the house of the eldest brother of the Santana family. Witnesses indicate that FAES officials placed a long shotgun in his hands and took a photo of him to distribute to police groups and show that “Santanita’s” father also belonged to the criminal gang.
After a lengthy interrogation, both men were reportedly executed. Rafael was shot in his left arm and in the chest, while Adrián Douglas was shot once in the chest and another in the leg.
“It seems unfair to me that just because we are Santanita’s family they say we are from the band. We, who are so many, fear for our lives, «said one of the relatives.
After these six deaths, the FAES continued making rounds in the La Carucieña and Garabatal communities , both from the Ana Soto parish, in search of «Santanita.»
Two more deaths
A week after the first six crimes, FAES attacked again Santanita’s relatives. On May 22, two bodies were admitted to the Barquisimeto morgue with gunshot wounds ; one was Nelson Enrique Rojas Suárez, 50 years old, assassinated in an alleged confrontation in sector 2 of La Carucieña , and the second Witten José Durán Mendoza, 20 years old, who was also linked to Santanita. He was killed in another alleged confrontation, on Avenida Ribereña and Calle 28 in Barquisimeto.
Nelson traveled from Barinas to Lara to take care of his mother’s house, who is in Chile. On May 21, at night, a FAES commission detained him along with another group of men who were gathered on a street in La Carucieña , with the excuse that they were violating the quarantine due to COVID-19. A woman whose identity is being withheld due to the risk of retaliation against her said that officials asked who had a police record.
Nelson was detained and admitted that he had a record, but clarified that he had served his sentence. They separated him from the group and took several photos of him. At 5:00 am the same FAES officials returned to the community and took Nelson out of the house where he lived. Witnesses claim that they took him to a sidewalk and shot him at the back of a house. Nelson had eight children.
Witten José’s mother learned of her son’s death by hearing the news on the radio. That same May 22, at 6:00 am, six FAES officials broke into his home, located in the El Cementerio neighborhood of the Río Claro population, located south of Barquisimeto. The man was sleeping with his wife and daughter when the officials stormed in. The men gunpointed the people who were in the house and sent Witten to dress up.
His mother asked where they were taking him and FAES officials told her that he was only going to be questioned. The woman was even asked for her phone number so that she could lpick him up. That call never came. They killed him with a shot in the chest and the official version indicates that it was the result of a confrontation.
Witten José had been arrested by the FAES on April 12 and charged with illegal possession of a firearm. He was on probation. The mother denied that her son was linked to «Santanita.»