The Aragua Train is a criminal organization in Venezuela that is rapidly expanding and has become a threat to the United States. The gang has about 2,700 members and operates in several countries including Colombia, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Panama. There are signs of their presence in the United States, with several members identified by US officials.
The gang was organized between 2012 and 2013 within the Tocorón prison in Venezuela. It operated in Caracas and at least five other Venezuelan states, planning kidnappings, robberies, drug trafficking, prostitution, and illegal mining activities. The gang maintained a system of corruption with prison officials and imposed a fee on the inmate population for the maintenance of the prison infrastructure.
In September 2023, the Venezuelan government carried out an operation to intervene in the prison and arrest the leader of the Aragua Train, Héctor Guerrero Flores, alias ‘El Niño’. However, he escaped along with 40 other inmates, and his whereabouts are unknown. Authorities from Peru and Colombia have issued arrest warrants against Guerrero Flores, and Interpol has issued a red search card.
The mass migration of Venezuelans allowed the Aragua Train to expand its operations. The gang established itself on the border between Venezuela and Colombia and took control of clandestine border crossings. It also established permanent cells in Colombia, Peru, and Chile, and carried out some activities in Brazil, Ecuador, and Bolivia.
The gang uses excessive violence to demonstrate its power and has established cells in urban areas with large populations of Venezuelan migrants. It has also used social networks to amplify its terror and has been involved in sexual exploitation and drug-related murders.
The Aragua Train’s transnational activity seems to have slowed down after the raid of its operations center in the Tocorón prison. However, there are signs that its members are directing their steps north towards the United States. Venezuelans are increasingly traveling towards the United States, and the gang’s expansion northward would be difficult due to the control of powerful criminal groups in Central America and Mexico.
In conclusion, the Aragua Train is a powerful criminal organization that poses a threat to regional security. Despite some arrests, dismantling the gang will not be easy. The expansion of the gang into the United States is uncertain but remains a possibility.
Image Source: www.univision.com
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