A series of grenade attacks and threats linked to Venezuelan gangs and extortion in Peru reveal how the use of this weapon has been exported from Venezuela to other Latin American countries.
The latest attack came on September 15 in San Juan de Lurigancho, a district of the capital Lima, when a grenade was thrown inside a nightclub, injuring at least 15 people.
The nationality of the attackers has not been officially confirmed, but sources within the Peruvian police sources told Exitosa Noticias that the attack was extortion-related and carried out by Venezuelans.
In an interview with TVPerú Noticias the day after the attack, district mayor Jesús Maldonado commented on how these attacks are becoming more widespread. “What happened yesterday could have happened at any other time or in any other part of this district, as has been happening to motorcycle taxi drivers, many of whom have unfortunately died for refusing to pay extortion demands,” he said.
While there is no indication that this incident has any link to Tren de Aragua, one of Venezuela’s largest gangs, there have been numerous reports that indicate the group’s presence in San Juan de Lurigancho. Additionally, in May, two Venezuelan citizens were arrested there for allegedly leaving a grenade at the office of a transport company they were extorting.
Grenades appear to be increasingly the weapon of choice for extortion gangs in Peru, with Venezuelan, Peruvian, and Colombian groups deploying them in the country. And extortion in general is on the rise in Peru. In the first nine months of 2022, there were 7,209 cases reported in the first nine months of 2022, a 62% jump compared with 2021 according to police figures cited by La República.
The practice extends throughout Peru. In August, two Venezuelans, reportedly belonging to an extortion gang, were arrested in another Lima suburb, Villa El Salvador, after using grenades to threaten local businesses, according to press reports. Two others were arrested the month prior in the town of Carabayllo for allegedly leaving a grenade at a betting shop.
InSight Crime Analysis
Grenade use by extortionists in countries like Chile and especially Peru coincides with a growth of Venezuelan criminal migration across the continent, as groups such as the Tren de Aragua have branched out, bringing tried-and-tested methods from Venezuela abroad.
The use of grenades in Venezuela first became widespread in the state of Zulia on the border with Colombia. Zulia saw grenades used in 44 attacks or threats between 2020 and June 2023, 60% of all such incidents nationwide.
Their use became popular, in part, because of the anonymity they offered.
“It is very difficult to tie the fragments of the [grenade] used back to the perpetrators, unlike firearms when a projectile, a shell, is located,” one former high-ranking Venezuelan police official told InSight Crime.
They are bought by some of Venezuela’s most prominent gangs in a variety of ways, as InSight Crime reported in June 2023. These include theft and sales from local army stocks, as well as being smuggled across the border from Colombia, still in the grip of a civil conflict. Weapons from the former Yugoslavia, Israel, and the United States have all been seized inside Venezuela.
In Peru, authorities tightened control over military arsenals following the discovery of 51 grenades that were allegedly to be sold to gangs in 2015.
But such weapons are still coming from outside the country. In April 2021, Interpol helped dismantle a weapons trafficking group which had smuggled in grenades and other weapons traced back to the smuggling hotspot of the Triple Border between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.