What is the Tren de Aragua, the bloodthirsty criminal gang terrorizing Latin America?


A prison in Venezuela is the center of operations for Train of araguaA bloodthirsty criminal gang that quickly spread its net in many Latin American countries.

The organization emerged in the early 2000s. From extortion for jobs, it went all the way to hired killers and drug trafficking. He has been held responsible for heinous crimes with disinformation in Colombia, but also Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia,

“It’s not a myth,” says Rona Risquez, a researcher on armed groups and violence. “It is a powerful organization that has managed to make its presence felt in many countries in the region.”

What is the origin of the Aragua train?

band emerged in the state aragua (North), where Tocoron Prison is located, a penitentiary center where one of the criminal group’s main minds, Hector ‘Nino’ ​​Guerrero, is serving his sentence.

In charge of assigning work in TrainKidnapped and went on highway robbery.

The criminal organization was born more than a decade ago. In this context, ‘Nino’ ​​assumed control in Tokoron in 2013, where he implemented his law as ‘Pran’ (Prisoner Leader).

“While in prison, a gang was given the conditions to be sought: a territory, population, weapons, to enforce its law, and to handle money,” explains criminologist Mario Marmol.

Prison population is the first victim: they give food, vaccine, sleep, keep court appointments.


The economic crisis in Venezuela produced a “loss of crime opportunities”. Therefore, many members of Train of aragua They fled, says Roberto Briseno Leone, director of the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV). “Part of the business was curtailed, for example, there was no money to pay for the kidnapping.”

The first movement was towards the border areas. “They realized there was a ‘business’ opportunity in migration and turned Venezuelan migrants into their first victims,” says Riskeque.

The first cases in other countries were reported between 2016 and 2018. The operation also expanded to eastern Venezuela to control drug trafficking in the Caribbean.

Heinous crime

The brutality displayed in Colombia responds to a “chronic criminal experience” in that country, says Briseno.

According to Marmol, dismemberment is a common practice in Venezuelan prisons. “They have that training, that perverse trait and when the situation demands, they apply it.”

In this detail, Train of aragua For example, rival gangs were encountered in Colombia.

How many criminals make up a gang?

The size of the gang is unclear, but Riskeze estimates there are “thousands.” Between 1,000 and 2,000 according to Marmol. “They are not the Sinaloa cartel, but they can maintain drug trafficking, extortion, and smuggling operations,” explains Riskez, who adds that “everything is managed from Tocoron.”

Briseno says it’s “a vertical organization.” “They work in alliances like franchises. They use symbols, names, terror and recruit people at the local level.”

“Loyalty, support is guaranteed and at the same time they receive tribute,” he concluded.

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