Regime authorities threw their full weight behind the operation this morning to kill or capture Oscar Perez and his band of rebels, who were hiding in a safe house in the town of El Junquito, a short distance west from Caracas.
As of the writing of this update, Perez’s status and that of his men is unknown.
The operation against Perez and his band included the use of automatic weapons, grenades, and at least one RPG launcher. One armor personnel carrier and hundreds of security forces were also sent to surround the Perez safe house.
While fighting around the house had ended by noon, the regime has yet to announce Perez’s status, choosing only to say that his group had been “dismantled”. PSUV vice president Diosdado Cabello provided only details on the status of security forces, saying that one had been killed and ten others had been injured in the battle.
Throughout the morning, Perez provided regular updates on the police operation. While his earlier videos showed a calm Perez asserting his desire to surrender to the authorities without a fight, the later videos showed a frantic Perez engaged in heavy fighting with security forces. In the videos, Perez repeatedly states that the security forces surrounding him and his men had refused to accept their surrender.
The video below was taken from the perspective of the security forces. It shows an impressive array of weaponry being used to attack Perez’s safe house. In the video, the authorities can be heard using a machine gun, as well as throwing a grenade at the safe house. At around 0:24, an RPG round explodes near the house:
The video below provides more audio clues about the regime hardware used during the assault. The video features what sounds like sustained machinegun fire, RPG and grenade detonations, as well as what sounds like either fire from an armored personnel carrier or grenades launched from a grenade launcher:
The images below show the area of operations around Perez’s safe house:
Masked officers on motorcycles and an armored personnel carrier:
The regime also deployed an armor personnel carrier belonging to the army. The vehicle can be seen in the video below on its way to El Junquito:
The video below appears to show the same vehicle as the one above:
Below, another video of security forces on their way to the safe house. The forces were identified by the person recording the video as members of the FAES [Fuerza de Acciones Especiales], a military special forces unit:
Caraota Digital has more images of the operation here.
National Guard Soldiers Fight Protesters Near Perez Safe House
As residents of El Junquito realized the nature of the security operation in their neighbourhood, some of them too to the streets to protest against the Maduro regime and to show their support for Perez.
Reporter: What do you say to the soldiers who have been here conducting this operation since this morning?
Woman: That they should be on the people’s side! We–they have families! They have mothers, brothers and sons who are not in the army, and they have the same needs that we do!
Reporter: What do you think about what is happening here today with Oscar Perez’s group, and about what they did to him?
Woman: That was terrible. It was a massacre. What they did to Oscar Perez was a massacre. I was in my home watching that disgrace, that massacre that they pulled off. It’s a disgrace. What we’re living through is a disgrace.
Reporter: What’s your name?
Woman: Lila Acevedo.
Reporter: We’ve just heard from a resident from El Junquito who has witnessed what has been happening here since the overnight hours today, Monday, in the El Junquito sector of Caracas in relation to the capture of Oscar Perez….
The video below shows area residents screaming at National Guard soldiers who were apparently attempting to control traffic in the area. One of the residents yells, “We’re hungry!”:
The video below shows residents yelling insults at the authorities who are driving by on their way to the Perez safe house:
Residents: [To the authorities driving by] Damn you! Fuck you!
Reporter: This is a protest being staged by people on the Kilometer 16 [this is the name of a place] in El Junquito whenever a police car drives by. They are carrying signs and yelling in rejection of the military’s presence in the area in a show of discontent about the country’s current situation. Reporting for CaraotaDigital.net, Vanesa Rivas.
At one point, residents placed a small barricade on the road in an attempt to block traffic through the area:
Pro-Regime Militia May Have Played Role in Assault
In the early afternoon, a voice recording purportedly made by PSUV official Freddy Bernal speaking on the involvement of a pro-regime militia in the operation against Perez and his men was released on social media. In the clip, Bernal praises the work of the colectivo armado [the local name for pro-government militias], and announces that several of its members–including its leader–had been killed in the operation.
In the clip, Bernal speaks on the death of Heiker Vasquez, a man who headed a colectivo known as Tres Raices [Three Roots] in Caracas’ 23 de Enero neighbourhood.
Below, the audio clip as it appeared on NTN24 along with my translation:
Freddy Bernal: Good morning. This is Freddy Bernal speaking. Today has been an important day for the defense of the socialist Bolivarian revolution. A group of of patriots like Heiker [Vasquez] fell in combat, as revolutionaries do each day and always, those who are capable of acting beyond words and risk their lives for ideas, today in particular for the legacy of commander Hugo Chavez and our people.
Hanzel [spelling?] Davila and other compatriots were also injured by enemy fire. This is what war is like, compatriots. In war, you win or die. There is no middle ground. Those of us who have used weapons in the past to defend our ideals are aware of this. At the same time, those who raised their flag against the homeland, our institutions, our constitution, and the rights of the people were subdued. Let it be made clear today that all those who raise arms against the republic, the constitution and the people will receive the same response.
Honor and glory to Heiker, and the other compatriots who were injured. May God allow them to get better. Onward always toward victory! We continue to fight and win.
The voice in the audio appears to be Bernal’s, as it exhibits his lisp and cadence.
Colectivos armados are organizations that operate with the consent of the government, and often participate in pro-regime activities. Colectivos are a relatively common sight at anti-government protests, where they intimidate and sometimes kill protesters. They have been observed acting alongside official state security forces by observers from organizations like Amnesty International.
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