Almost all the houses in the upper part of Caracas’s Cota 905 neighborhood are full of bullet holes. Some of the marks are older than others, but many are recent – the traces of an ongoing war led by gangster Carlos Luis Revete, aka El Koki, against the Venezuelan state. Home to 700,000 people, Cota 905 is just three kilometers from President Nicolas Maduro’s office, and firmly under El Koki’s control, along with his right-hand men, Carlos Calderón “El Vampi” and Garbis Ochoa “El Garbis.”
By El País
In early July, criminals from El Koki’s gang waged a three-day gun battle against Venezuela’s security forces. According to the Monitor de Víctimas, a journalism initiative that reports on violence, 33 bodies were identified after more than 3,000 police descended on the area, along with reports of extrajudicial executions and robberies by police. At least 24 of those killed were victims of stray bullets or did not belong to any criminal group. Five were civil servants, while just four were actual criminals, according to local media.
The Venezuelan press has documented at least 58 deaths in six major police operations carried out since 2015 to capture the gang’s ringleaders. All have failed. After four years in which the police did not set foot on Koki’s turf, in 2021 they have launched no fewer than three attempts to capture him. The government has now offered a $1.5 million (€1.2 million) reward for information leading to the capture of El Koki, El Vampi and El Garbis.
At 43 years old, Revete is an outlier for those who study violence in Venezuela. Living longer than your 25th birthday – the average life expectancy for criminals in the poorest areas of the country – is highly unusual. El Koki also has a rap sheet including several police murders, an arrest warrant outstanding since 2012 and the distinction of never having served jail time, all of which have transformed him into a grimly legendary figure. His gang is dedicated to kidnapping, drug trafficking and car theft, with the modus operandi of killing and setting fire to his victims. The videos can be viewed on social media.
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