The police department purge, took place in a top-secret move, Tuesday, during which army personnel sealed off Sucre Police HQ and went through all records of rapid-fire Austrian-manufactured Glock handguns and more held by individual police officers as well as hundreds of heavier weapons in the considerable police armory.
Army officers claim that the operation, which also hit other police forces across the nation, was in compliance with an order issued by the Ministry of Defense in 2003 headlining "Standards for the acquisition, registration and control of arms, ammunition, fixtures and equipment for public security organs and public security bodies to state police functions."
The 2003 order--which was drafted in response to the April 2002 coup d'etat against President Hugo Chavez Frias--stipulates that weapons that are deemed to be weapons of war, all specifically and uniquely to be used by the National Army, the National Guard and other security forces "to defend and safeguard the nation." Generally "weapons of war" are held to include "grenades, rifles, cutlasses, swords and guns."
Government sources say the police arms purge comes in a heightened state of alert over the possibility of another attempted coup d'etat and/or assassination bid against the President in the run-up to November 23 local and regional elections.
Cynics, however, say that the now un-armed cops will have little or no power to combat the increased prevalence of violent crimes since it is already generally known that ordinary criminals as well as organized crime gangs in Venezuela are already supremely armed to the teeth and more than ready to use them with lethal effect.