Venezuelan authorities have confirmed the arrest of five members of a gang suspected of assaulting and robbing a residential area where more than 120 Cuban doctors live. Authorities revealed that the amount stolen was $16,000. Local media had initially reported that more than $150,000 had been stolen from the doctors.
Authorities said the arrests were made after they followed the signal of one of the phones stolen from the doctors. One phone was recovered in the town of La Vega, Caracas. Authorities later carried out more operations and recovered other phones stolen from them.
Authorities also released images of the suspects that were arrested in the operations. The images also showed the items and money recovered from the gang. Police have identified the leader of the gang who was behind the robbery.
The leader of the gang was reportedly living in the same city as the doctors and knew their moves. The Cuban doctors, who are living in the Mision Vivienda apartments built by the government, are staying there until they are assigned to another city or state.
The leader of the gang, a 21-year-old woman, kept the money in her home until she was able to transport it out with three vehicles. Authorities suspect the vehicles were bought with money stolen by the gang. Authorities seized all of the vehicles, a motorcycle, three laptops, 23 phones and more than $5,000.
The amount reported by authorities has raised doubts as it was initially reported that more than $150,000 had been stolen from the doctors. Both amounts also raise doubts on their own as the country is currently in the middle of an economic crisis. Most of the population does not have access to foreign currency due to the exchange controls introduced in the early 2000s. A minimum salary there equals to less than $2 with the unofficial exchange rate.
Estimates say that there are more than 30,000 doctors working in the South American nation as part of an agreement reached by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro in the early 2000s. With the agreement, Cuba brings doctors to Venezuela in exchange for oil and other investments. Some have criticized the agreement for years as Venezuela has a high percentage of professionals in the area.
Venezuela’s economic crisis has forced a lot of its population to flee to other countries. Some Cuban doctors have also decided to leave the country, which has been ranked by several surveys as one of the most dangerous in the world.