The leader of a notorious Venezuelan gang is reportedly operating from Colombia, highlighting how criminal networks from the crisis-stricken state are expanding into neighboring countries.
Gilberto Malony Hernández, alias “Malony”, is the current leader of Venezuelan megabanda El Tren del Llano” (Train of the Plain). A megabanda refers to a large criminal gang with over 50 members. The group is based in the central state of Guárico, south of the capital Caracas. In recent weeks, however, El Tubazo Digital and other Venezuelan media have cited information from security sources that Malony has left the country and is presumed to be hiding out in Colombia.
The information came to light after Venezuela special forces (Fuerzas de Acciones Especiales – FAES) killed at least four alleged members of Malony’s gang during operations in Altagracia de Orituco, Guárico. Several more gang members fled to the mountains and are believed to have headed towards the Colombian border, Caraota Digital reported.
SEE ALSO: Train of the Plain Profile
The operation followed a video that went viral on July 30, showing alleged members of Malony’s gang shooting their guns in the air, in homage to two assassinated comrades.
El Tren del Llano originated as a small-time extortion gang around 2008, and rapidly expanded their operations to include kidnapping, assassinations and drug trafficking. But since the 2016 killing of their leader, José Antonio Tovar Colina, their profile was believed to have dropped considerably.
InSight Crime Analysis
Malony’s case highlights the risks of Venezuela’s international isolation, which not only allows high-profile international criminals to find impunity in the crisis-stricken state, but also allows less well-known Venezuelan gangs to expand their presence abroad.
Venezuela has long been a refuge for some of the region’s most dangerous armed groups, including Colombian gangs such as the Rastrojos, and guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN).
Particularly since the outbreak of Venezuela’s current crisis, systemic corruption and the lack of cooperation between President Maduro’s regime and other countries have hindered efforts to bring them to justice.
But this also works in reverse. Without effective communication between national security forces, Venezuelan gang leaders, with no criminal profile in Colombia, may find it easier to pass unnoticed in the neighboring country. Malony’s case shows that this can be an attractive option, reducing the risk of assassination by rival gangs or security forces in their home territory.
Malony is not the only example. InSight Crime’s sources state that the leader of Los Capracio, a gang based in the north Venezuelan state of Miranda, was recently hiding out in Bucaramanga, Colombia.
SEE ALSO: Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua Gang Muscling Into Colombia Border Area
Although hiding out abroad may be a survival tactic for weakened gangs such as Tren del Llano, developing connections across the Colombian border can also offer opportunities for criminal expansion.
Tren del Llano’s home territory of Guárico borders the state of Apure, which is a key entry point for drugs from Colombia. According to InSight Crime sources in the region, the group’s drug-trafficking activity has historically focused on moving these shipments through the central Venezuelan plains towards the Caribbean coast.
Currently, other central Venezuelan gangs are taking advantage of the porous and crime-racked border to extend such local drug trafficking ventures. This has been seen in the case of El Tren de Aragua, a megabanda from north-central Venezuela, which is now running into Colombia drugs through the border state of Táchira.