Extortion, prostitution, murder, robbery, drug trafficking, gold laundering, smuggling: the gang’Train from Aragua‘ became in a few years a multinational crime company that emerged in Venezuelawhat Ronna Rísquez has documented in a book that has earned him death threats.
Born in the Tocorón prison, in the state Aragua (central north of Venezuela), the gang is made up of about 5,000 men, according to this journalist, who took three years for this investigation in which she had access to the detention center itself.
“Inside the men I saw with firearms were prisoners who belong to the organization,” he told Rísquez in an interview with AFP. “The National Guard is outside, at the entrance,” she clarified.
Tocorón added that it looks like “a hotel” for “the leaders of the gang.” He explained that it has a swimming pool, a zoo, a betting room, a bank, a baseball field and even a nightclub called “Tokio”, where famous artists and celebrities perform.
To maintain all this infrastructure, they extort money from the prison population: each prisoner pays the “cause,” a fee of about 15 dollars a week, that is, “3.5 million dollars a year,” according to Rísquez.
Those who do not pay are subjected to acts of violence, forced to sleep outdoors or limited to eating little or nothing.
The resources are managed by the “pran” (leader of the gang in the prison) Héctor Guerrero Flores, known as ‘Niño Guerrero’, according to the author.
Sentenced to 17 years in prison for homicide and drug trafficking, among other crimes, Guerrero is officially jailed but appears to be able to come and go as he pleases, sometimes enjoying Venezuelan beaches on a yacht, the investigation revealed.
The prison serves as his base, where he is well protected by an army of inmates on his payroll.
Beyond the borders
He ‘Train of Aragua’ emerged in 2014, operating in “classic” mafia activities: kidnappings, robberies, drugs, prostitution and extortion, but later expanded to the illegal exploitation of gold in Venezuelawhich has some of the largest gold deposits in the world, adds Rísquez.
Its tentacles, which also extend to legal businesses, reach the remote town of Las Claritas, in the mining state of Bolívar (southeast of Venezuela), coming to control aspects of daily life, from shops to health services.
This criminal organization has also “taken advantage” of the unprecedented crisis it is experiencing Venezuela since 2013 to cross borders and settle in at least “eight other Latin American countries”, remarks the author.
“Among these 7 million Venezuelans who left the country, there are members of criminal groups who no longer had anyone to kidnap, rob… The gang identified a criminal business opportunity in this immigration,” he explains.
He ‘Train of Aragua’ He also joined the mafias of human traffickers known in Latin America as “coyotes”, in addition to managing prostitution networks with Venezuelans in Peru, Ecuador and Chile, attracting new members in precarious situations, on the migratory routes.
“In Chile they found that there was no other armed group capable of competing with them. Now they are in force from north to south, according to the Chilean authorities themselves,” says Rísquez.
In Brazil, the gang has made a notable “alliance with the main armed group, the PCC” (First Command of the Capital, a group originally from Sao Paulo also created in a prison) around arms sales and prostitution.
“It is impossible to read the book without wondering, as the pages turn, how the development of such a criminal organization is possible without the consent of the Venezuelan State,” writes publisher Sergio Dabhar on the cover, forced to secretly print the book so as not to expose who do.
Dabhar is in negotiations for the translation of the play into other languages.
“The book presents different risks for the author,” underlines the former attorney general of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo.
In fact, Ronna Rísquez has received death threats after the publication.
Moreno Ocampo also warns that “a different risk is that his effort is ignored”, since he believes that “the book should be used to face the problem”. “Our challenge is to turn this book into a lever for change,” she stressed. (With information from AFP)
“Espacio Vital”: Dr. César Munayco – General Director of the national center for epidemiology, prevention and control of diseases (cdc) of the minsa reported that so far there are 91 deaths from different regions, due to traffic accidents, electric shocks, and due to falling roofs, walls, also due to river landslide problems.
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