(CNN Spanish) — The Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office confirmed on Monday the arrest of three people suspected of participating in a series of attacks that occurred last week in Maracaibo, the capital of Zulia state, in western Venezuela.
The country’s attorney general, Tarek William Saab, described the events that occurred in a supermarket and a butcher shop as acts of terrorism. In this sense, he added that his office also requested arrest warrants against three other people who would also be linked to those episodes.
On February 18, according to the prosecutor’s version, three people shot at the Samba Supermarket because its owners had refused to pay for a “vaccine,” a term used in Venezuela to define the act of delivering money in exchange for protection.
According to Saab’s version, that day a man entered the supermarket premises with a firearm and injured six employees, after which he fled on a motorcycle.
Without specifying a date, the prosecutor noted that in another location, a butcher shop, two people attacked an employee, who eventually died, and then opened fire on the other workers in the location. There were three injuries as a result of the attack.
Saab acknowledged that in Venezuela there are criminal gangs that charge merchants for vaccines, and that the armed attacks they have carried out “intend to sow terror in the population.”
In communication with CNN, the criminal lawyer Luis Izquiel assured that the crime of extortion in the Zulia state is very frequent, and that this region is the epicenter of the collection of vaccines in Venezuela.
The expert said that a large number of owners of pharmacies, restaurants and supermarkets are being extorted by organized crime. He specified that they are gangs that have powerful firearms and also grenades. He added that when victims refuse to pay extortion, they often shoot or throw grenades at their homes or their own businesses.
In his opinion, these are basically local criminal organizations, not guerrillas, and that would not have political motivations, but merely criminal ones.