An increase in the number of reports of illegal invasions of homes and commercial establishments in Venezuela during the pandemic has revealed the ever-widening criminal portfolio managed by militant civilian groups known as “colectivos.”
By VENEZUELA INVESTIGATION UNIT / InSightCrime
In early January, residents of El Recreo, a neighborhood in the Libertador municipality of Caracas, opposed an illegal incursion by colectivo members, armed civilians that act as paramilitary groups and receive support from the government, El Pitazo reported. The groups were reportedly seeking to take over apartments in a residential building.
Carlos Julio Rojas, a journalist and community organizer in northern Caracas, documented the effort to repel the colectivos on his Twitter account. The invasion was the latest in a string of actions by government and police officials to take over properties, according to Rojas, who alleged the invasions were organized by Erika Farias, the mayor of Libertador.
In September 2020, he warned that the “government of Nicolás Maduro and Erika Farías, who sponsors the colectivos…giving them government and even police support to commit their misdemeanors, are directly complicit in this new wave of invasions.”
According to figures collected by Rojas’ organization, 53 invasions of this type were reported in the Libertador municipality in 2020, of which 40 were executed during the COVID-19 quarantine period that began in March of the same year.
“Last May, they invaded the Padrón building…which contained four companies with over 60 employees. What will happen to those employees? These places were shut because of the lockdown and the colectivos came and took over,” Rojas told El Diario.
“These invasions are part of a criminal enterprise that relies on the complicity of state agencies. Despite the fact that illegal property occupations are a crime in Venezuela, the colectivos operate with impunity, occupying residential or commercial properties to turn an illegal profit,” Fermín Mármol, a criminal lawyer and teacher at Venezuela’s University of Santa María, told InSight Crime.
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