Members of Venezuela's large and dangerous Tren de Aragua gang are actively trying to expand their group's influence in the Brazilian prisons where they are incarcerated.
In early September, Roraima State Security Secretary Olivan Júnior warned that Tren de Aragua members had been engaged in drug, arms and human trafficking in the Brazilian city of Pacaraima, on the border with Venezuela's state of Bolívar, reported UOL.
Once captured and jailed inside Brazilian prisons, the group's members identified themselves as part of Tren de Aragua, he confirmed. This infamous "megabanda," meaning a large gang of over 100 members, is led by Héctor Rusthenford Guerrero Flores, alias “Niño” Guerrero. Guerrero is also the prison boss of Venezuela's Tocorón Prison in Aragua, making him adept at extending his gang's criminal influence inside prisons.
It has previously been discovered that this criminal organization is operating on the other side of Venezuela, on the border with Colombia. Several of its members also have been captured in Peru within the last year.
InSight Crime Analysis
El Tren de Aragua is rapidly spreading throughout Venezuela and into neighboring countries. With a confirmed presence in four countries, the group is now becoming a regional security threat.
In recent years, El Tren de Aragua has developed its presence in the mining areas of Bolívar state, bordering Roraima. El Tren de Aragua has used illegal mining as a way of diversifying its sources of income in the face of changing criminal dynamics within the country. The crisis in Venezuela has made street crimes like robbery less profitable. In turn groups, such as El Tren de Aragua, have turned to more lucrative criminal economies, including drug and arms trafficking.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Megabandas
Brazilian gangs have also zeroed in on the criminal possibilities at the border. It is a well-known corridor for drugs and weapons, and the Family of the North (Família do Norte - FDN), the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital - PCC) and the Red Command (Comando Vermelho - CV) are all known to have a presence in the border region.
All three of these groups fight for command of Brazil's prisons, and often engage in horrifying massacres as part of this battle. It is unknown how the presence of El Tren de Aragua members inside Brazilian prisons will affect this dynamic.