U.S. Customs Monitors Criminal Activities of Venezuelan Tren de Aragua Gang


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced this week it would begin including the Venezuelan Tren de Aragua transnational criminal organization in its gang-affiliation apprehension reports.

The apprehensions of Tren de Aragua members, since CBP began reporting them, were only surpassed in numbers by the apprehension of members of 18th Street, MS-13, the Paisas, the Sureños gangs, and the “other” gang category — placing Tren de Aragua sixth on a list of over 50 gangs CBP monitors.

The Tren de Aragua began as a local trade union organization in 2012 for workers associated with a local railway project in the eponymous state of Aragua. Over the past decade, Tren de Aragua experienced a rapid expansion that allowed it to turn into a full-fledged transnational crime organization that engages a wide array of activities ranging from homicide, theft, extortion, contraband, kidnapping, and drug, human, and arms trafficking.

In early May, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officials in New York apprehended Venezuelan national Johan Jose Cardenas Silva, an identified Tren de Aragua member wanted by Peruvian authorities on conspiracy, assault, and aggravated theft charges.

ERO officials stated that Cardenas Silva had entered the U.S. illegally in October 2022 and was arrested in March by NYPD officers for illegal possession of a firearm in a school zone, intent to sell illegal substances, and causing injury to a 17-year-old.

The socialist regime in Venezuela, which is believed to have allowed Tren de Aragua to dramatically expand its criminal activities to other countries, has repeatedly insisted that the Venezuelan-born gang “does not exist.”

Instead, regime officials have repeatedly claimed that Tren de Aragua is part of a so-called “myth” or a “fictional” international media narrative meant to tarnish the rogue regime’s image.

The facility, which was monitored in part by the Bolivarian National Guard, was internally controlled by the Tren de Aragua, which transformed the facility into a full-fledged community with features such as nightclubs, banking offices, pool, baseball stadium, and its own zoo and parks, among other amenities.

Following the September 2023 “raid” on Tocorón, the whereabouts of Tren de Aragua’s leader, Héctor “the Child” Guerrero, remain unknown. Local Venezuelan organizations have claimed that Guerrero “negotiated” with the Maduro regime to hand over control of the now-shutdown prison and allowed to safely flee long before the raid took place.

Reports published in April indicate that the Maduro regime has employed the criminal “mega-gang” to hunt down dissidents of the Venezuelan socialist regime in foreign countries.

In February, Venezuelan dissident Ronald Ojeda was abducted from his residence in Santiago, Chile, by individuals linked to the Tren de Aragua. Ojeda’s body was found buried inside a suitcase under a concrete structure ten days after his abduction.

Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich described Tren de Aragua as a state-sponsored terrorist group in remarks given during a national entrepreneurship encounter held in Chile in April, asserting the gang’s operations are “not autonomous” from the Maduro regime.

“The Tren de Aragua does not strike in just any way. The Tren de Aragua strikes with a procedure, with a matrix of operation, with a logic that always does exactly the same thing,” Bullrich explained at the time. “It settles in a certain place. It comes with a group in general of Venezuelan nationality.”

“Consequently, it is important to analyze whether it is an organization that is autonomous from the state or not autonomous from the state. I tend to think that it is not autonomous from the state,” she said.

A report published by the Chilean news channel Meganoticias in late April showed that one of Tren de Aragua’s human trafficking cells had been able to infiltrate Chile’s national police. The cell, which dedicated itself to the sexual exploitation of women, received direct information from two members of the Chilean Investigative Police, who are now under arrest alongside other suspects.

The human trafficking cell was dismantled at the end of a lengthy investigation that began in late 2022 following the arrest of a 17-year-old Venezuelan minor, who denounced being subjected to sexual exploitation by the Tren de Aragua cell.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Christian K. Caruzo
Christian K. Caruzo
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism.

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