HomeNewsHow Peru Is Tackling the Danger of Venezuela's Tren de Aragua

How Peru Is Tackling the Danger of Venezuela's Tren de Aragua


General Ulises Guillén, director of the Peruvian National Police (PNP) Anti-Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Directorate, has led an effort by Peruvian intelligence to dismantle the Gallegos, the strongest armed wing of the Tren de Aragua, Venezuela's most powerful transnational criminal organization.

Peruvian authorities captured 30 members of the Gallegos, including leader José Ángel Ortega Padrón, alias "Armando," on November 10. According to Ulises Guillén, the arrests mark the first stage of a campaign against the gang, which has gained a strong foothold in the country and is involved in extortion, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and murder. 

InSight Crime spoke with Ulises Guillén about how the Tren de Aragua has become an international threat and serious security concern for neighboring countries like Peru. The gang is operated out of Tocorón Prison in Venezuela's Aragua state, where leader Héctor Rusthenford Guerrero Flores, alias "Niño Guerrero," is currently serving time. Despite his imprisonment, Niño Guerrero has overseen the construction of an international criminal empire.

InSight Crime (IC): Why did the PNP carry out the operation against the Gallegos?

General Ulises Guillén (GUG): We decided to act after the murders of two female Ecuadorean sex workers in downtown Lima on February 19 this year. That these women were murdered indicated that a criminal organization, not just a gang, was involved. While there has always been street prostitution and prostitution in clandestine premises in the country, this level of violence has never been associated with it. No one was murdered because of prostitution before.

IC: How did you confirm that the Gallegos work under the Tren de Aragua?

GUG: We confirmed the connection through an intelligence investigation we carried out together with the Attorney General's Office with information from intercepted messages from the criminal in WhatsApp groups. We also found out that the Tren de Aragua has built criminal networks and connections in countries with higher rates of Venezuelan migration. The Gallegos report to a leader we know only as "HD," who in turn reports to "Niño" Guerrero.

SEE ALSO: The Devolution of State Power: 'The Pranes'

IC: What illegal economies are the Gallegos linked to in Peru?

GUG: The Gallegos are involved in street prostitution and extortion, mainly in downtown Lima. They have also been linked to human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and homicide. 

The group has expanded from the downtown area into other Lima neighborhoods. To date, we have identified 13 areas of the capital where the group is present.

IC: How strong is the Tren de Aragua in Peru?

GUG: We found that the Tren de Aragua works as a franchise. Many Venezuelan criminals who have emigrated to other countries are part of the group's criminal network. These criminals use the group's name and report to the headquarters in Venezuela.

IC: What challenges does Peru's prison system face in holding members of the Tren de Aragua?

GUG: Our job doesn't usually end with the capture or dismantling of a criminal organization -- we have to work cooperatively with other state institutions [like the prison system]. 

Peru tries to block any calls entering or leaving Peruvian prisons. Prisons in the country's interior don't receive strong cell connections due to their location, so prisoners there have trouble contacting anyone outside. Those prisons are therefore safer, and the most dangerous criminals are sent to them. 

The impact of this strategy is limited because there aren't many prisons in the country's interior, while the majority of the prison population is concentrated in Lima in overcrowded prisons.

IC: Have you been able to determine how those profits generated in Peru reach Tocorón Prison in Venezuela?

GUG: We have identified some bank accounts and are following up on investigations into them. 

It is most likely that profits reach Tocorón via human couriers. Peru's borders are not well guarded, so moving money out of the country is relatively easy.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Tren de Aragua

IC: You have said it is unusual for Peruvian groups to use rifles and other heavy weapons. Do you know how these types of arms get into the country?

GUG: They may enter through the country's northern border [with Ecuador and Colombia]. In other neighboring countries, there are armed organizations that make use of heavy weaponry. We don't rule out that the guns in Peru could have come from those countries.

IC: What will happen to captured Venezuelan members of the Gallegos? Will they be extradited?

GUG: No, not yet. According to our legislation, every person who commits crimes in our country is tried and sentenced here. They will be extradited once they have served their sentences.

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.


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.

Was this content helpful?

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


Related Content


A doctor operating out of Bolívar City, Venezuela has been charged with designing, operating and selling ransomware tools to a…


Business partners of Álex Saab have been indicted by US prosecutors on charges of being part of a multi-million dollar…


The Venezuelan government has placed and rogue mining gangs in its crosshairs, as the military is deployed in Bolívar.

About InSight Crime


InSight Crime Contributes Expertise Across the Board 

22 SEP 2023

This week InSight Crime investigators Sara García and María Fernanda Ramírez led a discussion of the challenges posed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” plan within urban contexts. The…


InSight Crime Cited in New Colombia Drug Policy Plan

15 SEP 2023

InSight Crime’s work on emerging coca cultivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Venezuela was cited in the Colombian government’s…


InSight Crime Discusses Honduran Women's Prison Investigation

8 SEP 2023

Investigators Victoria Dittmar and María Fernanda Ramírez discussed InSight Crime’s recent investigation of a massacre in Honduras’ only women’s prison in a Twitter Spaces event on…


Human Trafficking Investigation Published in Leading Mexican Newspaper

1 SEP 2023

Leading Mexican media outlet El Universal featured our most recent investigation, “The Geography of Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border,” on the front page of its August 30…


InSight Crime's Coverage of Ecuador Leads International Debate

25 AUG 2023

This week, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime, was interviewed by La Sexta, a Spanish television channel, about the situation of extreme violence and insecurity in Ecuador…