- Norberto Paredes @norbertparedes
- BBC News World
After evacuating 23 houses in Cerro Suno, an impoverished area of Arica in Chile’s extreme north, on June 16, police found weapons, drugs and a buried body with signs of torture of a man who had already worn the month of the dead. , according to the autopsy.
Agents arrested 17 people charged with crimes related to drug trafficking, smuggling, weapons possession, trafficking and illegal association.
In some Latin American countries, this type of activity has become common in recent decades, but in Chile, one of the continent’s safest countries, cause a stir.
“I want them to know that we are going to persecute them,” the country’s president, Gabriel Boric, warned days later.
According to the police, the accused were part of a gang “Galician”, An arm of the Venezuelan criminal mega-gang spans almost the entire continent.
The Aragua trainAs he is known, he was born a decade ago in the state of the same name in northern Venezuela.
According to experts, this fearsome organization is led by Hector Rustenford Guerrero Flores, who is currently incarcerated in the Tocoron prison for various crimes, including murder.
There is consensus among experts that Tocorón is the “headquarters” of the Aragua train.
The Ministry of People’s Power for Venezuela’s prison service did not respond to BBC Mundo’s request for comment.
According to Luis Izquiel, a professor of criminology at Venezuela’s Central University, the gang was born “about 12 or 14 years ago” in a union that controlled part of a train crossing the state of Aragua.
“Union members extorted money from contractors, sold jobs on construction sites and were known as ‘That of the Aragua trainIn an interview with BBC Mundo, an expert on organized crime gives the assurance.
“Some of these people were imprisoned in a local prison called Tokoron Prison, from where they began to gain strength as a criminal organization,” he continues.
Izquale explains that Hector Rustanford Guerrero started from prison Unite former union members For other common prisoners, gradually piece together the system we know today.
First, they spread outside the prison to other parts of Aragua State.
“Today they control the neighborhood of San Vicente in the state of Aragua, which has become theirs Control Center “Outside Tokoron Prison,” he adds.
Then they spread to other parts of the country: “They are in the state of Sucre, control drug trafficking routes, and are known to participate in illegal mining in the state of Bolivar.”
According to Rona Rizquez, an expert on organized crime who is currently writing a book about Tren de Aragua, people first started hearing about Tren de Aragua in 2013, a few months after Tocorón escaped from prison. “Nino Guerrero”, was recaptured almost a year later.
“before that There were many systems“Some were associated with the Tocorón prison and some operated out of the prison in Aragua state and were connected to the railway under construction in the area,” the researcher tells BBC Mundo.
“That’s where the name Tren de Aragua comes from.”
Risquez asserts that Guerrero Flores is officially the leader, but adds to the group There can be at least two more leadersAnd one is suspected to be in the mining state of Venezuela and the other abroad.
Criminology professor Luis Izquiel explains that “Nino Guerrero” Aragua was able to control the train from prison, because for years some prisoners had “owned” some prisons in Venezuela through the leadership of prison gangs.
“Everything that happens inside these prisons is managed by these criminals They have more authority than directors prisons or the army that guards them,” he says.
Criminal leaders in Venezuela are called “Frances” and Hector Guerrero Flores is the most prominent in the entire country.
According to Izquiel, this happens with the complicity of many state authorities, “by action or omission”.
Rona Rizquez confirms that she has identified the Aragua train in eleven states of Venezuela, but its operation is currently suspended. Not limited to Caribbean country borders.
Although the first public evidence of the group’s overseas expansion was recorded in Peru in 2018, he points out that its international activities may have started earlier.
On August 3 of that year, the Peruvian Police Robbery Investigation Unit arrested five members of the gang they had identified.Aragua train wreck“They seized three guns, a truck, a pineapple-type bomb and a balaclava.
One of those arrested, Venezuelan Edison Agustin Barrera, “Catier”, confessed to six murders in Peru as a hired killer.
Since then The band expanded in that country. On July 19, local police arrested four Venezuelan nationals in connection with an attack on the tenth floor of a building in the country’s capital, Lima.
In neighboring Brazil, authorities have identified links between the country’s most prominent criminal organization, the Tren de Aragua, and El Primer Comando de la Capital (PCC) — and which was born in a prison — in the state of Roraima. border with Venezuela.
Group activities have also been recorded in Colombia.
“Began to operate in Colombia, along the border with Venezuela. Between Tachira and Northern Santander, they now control the border crossing on the Colombian side. Then it expanded more recently to other Colombian regions, including Bogotá,” says Rísquez.
In early July, a video of two subjects beating, torturing, and suffocating an immigrant led Bogotá police to capture two alleged members of the Tren, alias Alfredido y el Cabi, in the city of Kennedy. de Aragua.
According to Colombian authorities, the criminal group has been fighting with other Colombian gangs since 2021 to control the drug trade in the Colombian capital.
“His sign is to strike fear”
Three weeks before the police operation in Bogotá, south of the continent, Rodrigo Fuentes, head of the Chilean police’s anti-narcotics and organized crime unit, provided details. How MegaBand Works in Chile.
“They obey a leader, who are involved in the management of weapons, who are concerned with collecting money, extortion and other so-called vaccinators like killers,” the official told Chilean media.
“They kill on an order, and here we don’t have the image of the ordinary hitman, where there is a reward or a reward. There is an order. A leader who orders a person to be killed It will not pay for the vaccine when it is extorted,” he added.
According to Fuentes, most of the illegally obtained money is sent to Venezuela.
“This organization has leadership in Venezuela and these leaderships are being turned into operational weapons in various countries.”
Mario Carrera, who is the regional attorney for Arica and Barinacota, an area near Chile’s borders with Peru and Bolivia, called it “a system.” Very rude in his performance“.
“Typically a criminal organization seeks to operate stealthily without arousing too much suspicion. Their specialty is to instill fear, not these people. For this they use the tactics we’ve seen, murder and torture,” he said last week. Intervention in Chile’s cooperative radio.
The Aragua train has been accused of trafficking women for sexual exploitation and migrant smuggling in Chile and other countries.
Thousands of members
Rona Rísquez explains that although its existence has been verified in countries such as Colombia and Peru, the Aragua train is assumed. Works in many countries.
“Those who operate on the border between Chile and Bolivia are believed to be in Bolivia. Those who operate on the border between Chile and Argentina are also believed to be in Argentina. And they are believed to be in Costa Rica and Panama,” the expert on organized crime continues.
For his part, Luis Izquale asserts that the gang is present in Ecuador and sometimes controls the border crossing with Colombia.
Calculate Number of participants The Aragua train is complex, but Izquiel calculates that it could have been between 2,500 and 3,000 people, while Rona Risquez’s estimate goes as high as 5,000.
Rísquez asserts that it is important to highlight that this is a group that is not dedicated to a crime that gives it an “advantage” over other gangs.
“The Aragua train has the ability to adapt. It’s not a group dedicated exclusively to drug trafficking or smuggling or smuggling. It’s looking for places and spaces where it can engage. Venezuelan immigration,” he points out.
“Venezuelan migrants may be the main victims of the train. They extort money from them, use them for migrant or human trafficking, kidnapping and sexual exploitation.”
“They don’t have the weapons of the Mexican cartels or the knowledge to run illegal businesses that the FARC rebels have, but they know how to move and adapt.”
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