HomeNewsBrief'Mega-Gangs': The Latest Criminal Collective in Venezuela
BRIEF

'Mega-Gangs': The Latest Criminal Collective in Venezuela

VENEZUELA / 20 JUL 2015 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Heavily armed "mega-gangs" are terrorizing swathes of Venezuela, say experts, in the latest indication the country's criminal chaos may be converging around more organized structures.

The Venezuelan Organized Crime Observatory has released an alert highlighting the growing strength of criminal structures it calls "mega-gangs." Each consists of around 50 core members but can call on a network of up to 200 criminals through connections with local street gangs.

The mega-gangs' principal criminal activities are extortion, kidnapping, hijackings, robbery, murder-for-hire and petty drug trafficking. The gangs are much more heavily armed than common street gangs, and use weaponry such assault rifles and fragmentation grenades.

The observatory says the mega-gangs are not an evolution of smaller street gangs, but instead are based on the criminal model developed in Venezuela's prisons, where leaders known as "pranes" hold sway over hierarchically organized structures. Several of the gangs are controlled from within prison by such figures. (See the Observatory list of mega-gangs here - pdf).

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles 

The Venezuelan government, meanwhile, has conflated such structures with Colombian-style paramilitaries, and last week launched the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) operation "Liberation of the People" to target these networks, reported El Nacional.

However, the operation got off to a bad start: within days of its launch, family members of people who had been detained by the GNB as part of the operation staged a protest claiming the detainees were innocent and denouncing the GNB for extortion, robbery and threatening residents.

InSight Crime Analysis

In contrast to regional neighbors such as Colombia or Mexico, where powerful transnational criminal and insurgent networks have fueled violence, Venezuela's security crisis has always been more chaotic.

However, from within this chaos, ever more organized structures have been emerging to capitalize on the gaps left by corrupt and incapable security and justice institutions. These range from the drug trafficking network of corrupt military officials known as the "Cartel of the Suns," to the armed radical political collectives that hold sway in urban slums. The mega-gangs may prove to be another collective.

SEE ALSO: Cartel of the Suns Profile

According to the Organized Crime Observatory, two state policies in particular have facilitated their growth. The first of these is the "peace zones," where security forces have no permanent presence, allowing criminal structures to flourish. The second is the militarization of security, which has weakened the police and helped criminals source heavy weapons after coming into contact with corrupt military officials.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CONTRABAND / 27 SEP 2013

Honduras is losing $230 million per year in revenues because of fuel smuggling, a practice driven by criminal groups capitalizing…

PRISONS / 17 MAY 2012

In one of Venezuela's most violent and overcrowded prisons, the underground economy reportedly brings in some $3.7 million a year,…

HOMICIDES / 9 JAN 2015

With nearly 25,000 violent deaths estimated for 2014 and 90 violent deaths reported in Caracas in the first week of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…