A Venezuelan criminal gang has migrated to the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago — sounding alarms about the expansion of organized crime elements to the islands amid Venezuela’s collapse.
This past weekend Trinidadian authorities arrested a leader of the large Venezuelan gang known as “Evander” in Point Fortin, a borough in southern Trinidad, the Guardian of Trinidad and Tobago reported. The gang leader, who was only identified as “El Culon,” was captured with seven other Venezuelans and a Trinidadian fisherman working with the gang.
Evander, a Venezuelan megabanda (a criminal gang with more than 100 members), first came to the attention of authorities after the killing of three Venezuelan nationals in Trinidad. Intelligence officials say that gang envoys are in the country illegally, looking for jobs in construction while also engaging in drug and arms trafficking.
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The Evander gang, or the Deltano Liberation Front, hails from the state of Delta Amacuro, where it controls a portion of the criminal markets at one of Venezuela’s main ports for both illegal and legal goods.
The gang’s activities have caught the attention of Venezuelan authorities. In March 2019, the group’s leader, Evander Barrada, was killed by the armed forces and members of the criminal investigation unit (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas – CICPC) of Venezuela’s national police. However, this has not stopped the Evander gang from continuing to operate and spread.
InSight Crime Analysis
Venezuela’s economic situation and the state of Delta Amacuro’s close proximity to Trinidad and Tobago have provided the perfect dynamic for the Evandar gang to expand into the neighboring country, where it seeks to co-opt local criminal groups to traffic illicit goods from Venezuela.
The Evander gang began its criminal history at La Pica prison in northern Monagas state near Venezuela’s Caribbean coast. The gang still has influence in that area and may be linked to “pranes,” or prison crime bosses, operating there, according to local sources.
From Monagas, the gang expanded into the nearby state of Delta Amacuro, where it took control of the canals that connect it to the Caribbean Sea, from which boats cross into Trinidad and Tobago.
The group formerly led by Barrada extorts boats that carry desperate Venezuelan migrants to the neighboring island, and is involved in ferrying drugs and arms as well. The group also rustles cattle in Delta Amacuro.
Trinidad’s main appeal to the group is its prime location as a transit point for drugs to the rest of the Caribbean, as well as to markets in the United States and Europe. Such dynamics are not only attractive for the Evander gang, but also for local drug trafficking networks in Trinidad looking for new allies.
In addition, the workforce in Trinidad is currently saturated with desperate Venezuelans, representing an opportunity for local gangs to take advantage of those willing to do nearly anything to earn some money.
In Venezuela’s current criminal panorama, in which gangs and other criminal elements are increasingly pitted against one another, the Evander gang may be trying to create new income streams and avoid being squeezed. Corrupt members of Venezuela’s National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana – GNB) and armed guerrillas in the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) have both been known to tax such groups.
Confrontations between the Evander gang and authorities in Venezuela could also explain the group’s move toward Trinidad.
The Evander gang may also have had differences with Delta Amacuro Governor Lizeta Hernández, which would have accelerated the battle between authorities and the criminal group, local sources told InSight Crime.
The recent arrest of “El Culon” in Trinidad suggests that the gang saw an opportunity to further their criminal activities or find safe haven there.
While Evander may be the first Venezuelan gang to be shown working with local gangs on the island, other criminal actors will surely follow in its wake.