The government of President Nicolas Maduro has not yet mentioned any casualties caused by the clashes. Human rights activists from the region claim that at least four civilians were killed and half a dozen were injured in clashes.
The information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gangs from the Cota905 barrio have been expanding their territory to La Vega and surrounding areas since January.
Amelia Flores (58), who runs two soup kitchens in the area, said that the kitchens have not been operating at their full capacity since January due to shootouts almost every day. “I don’t know what happened, but the situation has escalated and the children are traumatized.”
According to a human rights activist who is based in one of the affected areas, the gangs are determined to take control of one of the major corridors connecting the capital and the west of the country.
“It’s been a conflict for months,” stated the activist who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals.
Analysts believe that Cota 905 gangs have been able to operate without difficulty because it is a no-go area for security forces. This has been due to a pact between the government and lower violence. Experts believe the gangs used the opportunity to purchase military-grade firepowers, such as assault weapons, grenade launchers, and drones.
Alexander Campos, a researcher at the Central University of Venezuela, said that they used the Cota space to re-arm and gain strength and plan an attack.
He said, “They are expanding from the control of the barrios in hills into lower parts of the city.” They are winning, even though it is difficult for them.
Ines Candida, 56, resides in El Paraiso, a middle-class neighborhood, across the highway from the Cota905 barrio. Although she claimed that gangs were engaged in shootouts with police daily for the past month and she hadn’t seen or heard anything similar over the past 24 hours, she said that they had not been involved in any such incidents.
She said, “We are prisoners inside our own homes,” while unrelenting gunshots rang in the background.
When Wilfredo Corniel (Catholic priest) reached him by phone at the El Cementerio church where he was taking shelter, he said, over more gunfire, “It feels as if we are in a battle zone.”