Published23. September 2023, 9:14 p.m.
Latin America: International gang dismantled in Venezuela
By retaking the Tocoron prison, Venezuelan law enforcement destroyed the self-proclaimed Tren de Aragua. But its leader is on the run.
More than 11,000 members of the security forces were called upon to take over the prison.
The Venezuelan government announced on Saturday as part of the resumption of the Tocoron prison (north-center) that it had “totally dismantled” the Tren de Aragua, a sprawling gang, which extended its criminal activities beyond Venezuela while its leader is wanted by law enforcement.
“We have completely dismantled the self-proclaimed ex-Tren de Aragua,” said the Minister of the Interior and Justice, Admiral Remigio Ceballos, during a statement to the press following a visit from the prison.
More than 11,000 members of the security forces, supported by dozens of armored vehicles, invaded this prison on Wednesday, which the Tren de Aragua completely controlled and had transformed into a sort of headquarters.
The operation left one dead (a soldier), according to the authorities who did not provide a report on the number of injured. The authorities, who announced 88 arrests of gang members, invited the press to take a guided tour, very supervised and without questions, of part of the installations on Saturday.
Swimming pool and bars in the prison
The gang had made Tocoron prison their headquarters.
The journalists were thus able to see the atypical facets of the prison with its swimming pool, its children’s play area or small bars and restaurants, while the authorities destroyed a small “neighborhood” of small houses made of bricks, wood and sheet metal, which adjoined one of the main buildings. “Bolivarian National Guard: the Tren de Aragua is over!”, could be read on a door.
Tren de Aragua is present in eight Latin American countries.
On Friday, the authorities exposed a large arsenal including rocket launchers, explosives and war rifles.
However, on Friday, authorities also issued a wanted notice against Hector Rusthenford Guerrero Flores, alias “Niño Guerrero” (child warrior), the main leader of Tren de Aragua, effectively acknowledging the gang leader’s flight.
The NGO Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVV) denounced the flight abroad of the main leaders, ensuring that they had “already negotiated (with the authorities) their exit from the complex and had left the country a week ago “. In his speech to the press, Admiral Remigio Ceballos denied “any negotiation” on Saturday.
The Tren de Aragua, which reportedly numbers some 5,000 criminals, appeared in 2014, operating in “classic” mafia activities: kidnappings, robberies, drug trafficking, prostitution, extortion.
It has extended its influence to other activities, some legal, but also to gold panning and illegal mining. It is present in eight Latin American countries, including Colombia, Peru and Chile.
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