No one went to look for El Koki’s body at the Caracas morgue. The body of the most wanted criminal in Venezuela was transferred by the police before noon on February 8 from Las Tejerías, the rural town where he was ambushed, on the edge of the highway that connects the center and west of the country. The Government quickly ordered a “controlled cremation”, despite the fact that the law requires those who are murdered to be buried to protect evidence in subsequent investigations. When a relative dares to show up, if he shows up, they will give him a box of ashes.
The discretion and the information gaps about the death of El Koki contrast with a life of parties, waste of shots to challenge the security forces and many selfie. Carlos Luis Revette, murdered at the age of 44, built his own legend in a country where dead criminals are fired in a chaotic and dangerous funeral procession that usually fills up the city and is worshiped within a branch of spiritualism. In the General Cemetery of the South, part of the territory controlled by his gang, there is an altar of the so-called malandra court, where a certain Ismael with a cap, glasses and a gun on his belt governs this faith to which those who have problems with Justice. It remains to be seen if El Koki will enter those altars.
Last year, the government of Nicolás Maduro paid material to the legend in an attempt to turn him into a political target, despite the fact that on at least two occasions he agreed to a truce with his gang, according to investigations by Insight Crime. A selfie in which El Koki appeared with a supposed shirt of the Primero Justicia party was enough for the head of Parliament, Jorge Rodríguez, to declare him an opposition agent and put a price on his head: 500,000 dollars. Seven months later, the police who for years let him reign in Cota 905 finally found him.
Maduro has said in a speech this week that El Koki was armed, trained and financed by the Colombian government of Iván Duque, a recurring thesis in the Chavista narrative. The president assured that his return from hiding in recent months would have the objective of installing “a paramilitary base” in the area where he was assassinated.
During the clashes last July, in which the west of Caracas experienced four days of anxiety, a photo also circulated in which he appeared in a white shirt and a gold chain with his name. Thus, the offender clarified to the world that his nickname was “Koki” and not “Coqui”, as the press and the police had identified him until then. but there is more selfie in this history.
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In the shootings that began last Sunday and paralyzed traffic on the Central Regional Highway for seven hours, the police found a cell phone that supposedly belonged to the criminal. One last selfie found on that phone, in which he appeared wearing the same white shirt, but with longer hair and a few days’ beard, was confirmation that Revette had taken refuge in those mountains thanks to his alliances with Carlos Enrique Gómez Rodríguez, alias Rabbit. That was the clue to find him and discharge him, according to the police versions.
After this image, it is the photo of his corpse on an autopsy table that has gone viral on social networks this week as the ultimate proof that the Government achieved its objective in the face of widespread mistrust of the authorities. In his own neighborhood they did not believe that El Koki had died, reported a local media.
“The story of El Koki is that of the evolution of organized crime in Venezuela and police lethality,” says journalist Ronna Rísquez, who has closely followed the trail of mega-gangs in the country. The organization that El Koki commanded from 2015, when its former leader alias The kid was murdered, accumulates several milestones in criminality. They were the first to build solid alliances with gangs from neighboring territories and share businesses, a strategy that allowed them to add men —more than 120 came to command El Koki— and firepower, similar to and sometimes greater than that of the security forces.
The clashes between gangs, which in the first decade of the 2000s filled the events pages of the newspapers, diminished after these associations. The criminal peace was imposed in territories that the State abandoned completely. “These gangs managed to agree that their enemy was going to be the police and not the other groups,” says Rísquez, also coordinator of Monitor de Víctimas, a data platform that documents violence in the city, an initiative of the media runrunes and the NGO Caracas Mi Convive.
El Koki’s gang was also one of the first groups to collect kidnappings in dollars, long before Venezuela became dollarized, the journalist recalls. In 2015, the daughter of commissioner Luis Ramón Torcat, then director of Interpol in Venezuela, was held captive. At that time they were listed as one of the main groups dedicated to this crime with a particular method. “They divided their men into small groups and in the same day they could carry out eight kidnappings, something that overwhelmed the police. They did not study the victims like other kidnapping gangs, but rather they looked for the opportunity”. In addition to kidnapping, the gang was involved in drug trafficking, extortion of merchants in the area and vehicle theft, for which they also demanded ransom in dollars.
The gang had their methods to get rid of their enemies. The bodies were thrown down a garbage chute that emptied into the tunnels of a Caracas highway. In the streets of Cota 905 — guarded by the police since the raid last July from which El Koki and his lieutenants escaped — they still remember when they burned a woman who allegedly betrayed one of their members.
The gang controlled the life of the community and the distribution of food bags from Clap, the chavismo food distribution program. There were closed streets to which only members had a key. Those who moved out of the neighborhood had to have the approval of El Koki about who they would sell their house to. On occasions, and depending on the strategic location of the house, the band bought them to incorporate them into their defensive fortress. They were also known for parties. At least three videos on YouTube document the massive meetings that the band organized in a neighborhood court with DJs, salsa singers and reggaeton players.
Revette was never in jail, but with his associates Garbis Ochoa, alias The Garbys, and Carlos Calderón, alias vampire, adopted the organizational structure of the Venezuelan prison gang, in which there is a “pran”, who is the boss, who is followed by his lieutenants, stars and gariteros, as security rings. “This hierarchy allows them to maintain themselves even though the leader is no longer there,” says Rísquez, which makes room for a possible regrouping after his death, especially since the other two leaders have not been caught.
The first peace zone in Caracas was established on the grounds of El Koki. This was a low-profile agreement promoted by the Maduro government in 2013 to try to pacify the gangs. They gave them financing for legal activities in exchange for the police not entering their territories, which ended up consolidating their power.
The Government sought the so-called OLP (Operation to Liberate the People) as an antidote, violent incursions by security forces combined in an indiscriminate search for criminals in poor neighborhoods of the city, in which innocents died, homes were raided without warrants and the The police also stole belongings, according to reports from several NGOs that support the victims. The first of these police operations was carried out precisely at Cota 905 del Koki, during his first months of criminal government, in July 2015. A report by the UN Independent Mission concluded that the collaboration of police officials allowed him to flee in time. of this first ambush.
The sum of all these operations are part of the file of extrajudicial executions and human rights violations that has been opened against Venezuela. The OLP marked a milestone in the increase in police lethality in Venezuela as a response to the power that the gangs acquired with the peace zones and maintain themselves under other names. At the end of January, the Monitor on the Use of Lethal Force, made up of six universities and four research centers in the region, pointed out in a report that Venezuela is one of the countries with the highest police lethality after a comparison that included Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil and El Salvador. Deaths at the hands of security forces are equivalent to a third of all homicides in Venezuela.
The Aragua Train and its branches
El Koki died outside his territory, in Las Tejerías, the area controlled by Carlos Enrique Gómez Rodríguez, alias Rabbit, who leads a gang that functions as a cell —some call them franchises— of the Tren de Aragua, the most powerful in the country and which, according to the monitoring carried out by journalist Ronna Rísquez, has gained ground where the government has dismantled others. This group commanded from the Tocorón prison, in the state of Aragua, already has branches in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile and Bolivia.
In the wake of migration, migrant trafficking opened up a new business, and allowed for international expansion. The Aragua Train, according to an investigation coordinated by Rísquez and published this week, even has an impact on the signing of baseball prospects (players who have the potential to play in the US major leagues), through extortion of the academies, to which they demand a commission on the millionaire contracts.
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