HomeNewsPeru, Chile Prisons May Struggle to Contain Tren de Aragua

Peru, Chile Prisons May Struggle to Contain Tren de Aragua


The capture of more Tren de Aragua members is testing the capacity of Peru and Chile’s prison systems to contain and neutralize a gang that has thrived in the region’s prisons.

Peruvian police captured 30 members of the Gallegos, a sub-group of Tren de Aragua, operating in the country, on November 10, according to a statement from Peru's Interior Ministry. Tren de Aragua is Venezuela’s largest gang and has spread rapidly across much of South America, engaging in migrant trafficking, sexual exploitation, and extortion.

A raid in Lima’s district of Surco led to the capture of alleged Gallegos leader, José Ángel Ortega Padrón, alias "Armando," along with his partner. Other operations across Lima saw numerous other members of the gang arrested, along with the seizure of assault rifles, pistols, and grenades.

SEE ALSO: How Tren de Aragua Controls the Destiny of Migrants from Venezuela to Chile

According to police statements reported by El Comercio, the gang controlled prostitution in eight districts of Lima, exploiting women migrants from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia. They were also connected to homicides and extortion.

The head of Peru’s directorate against human trafficking and human smuggling, Ulises Guillen, also told the press that Armando had been responsible for sending a cut of his profits back to Venezuela to the leader of Tren de Aragua, Héctor Rusthenford Guerrero Flores, alias "Niño Guerrero."

The Gallegos have also been reported in Chile where police arrested 14 alleged members of the group between March and June 2022 on charges of migrant smuggling, kidnapping, extortion, homicide and drug trafficking.

InSight Crime Analysis

Holding a large number of Tren de Aragua gang members poses a real challenge to Chile and Peru's prison systems. The Gallegos are part of one of Latin America's most sophisticated gangs, which has thrived by recruiting members and controlling criminal economies from behind bars.

The group's leader, Niño Guerrero, is the most feared prison boss in Venezuela where he has made the prison of Tocorón into a base from which he runs a transnational criminal empire.

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

While Peru has more experience jailing members of major criminal groups, including members of the Shining Path, its prison system is in a rough condition. A 2022 report by the National Penitentiary Institute (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario - INPE) showed that the country’s prisons were at more than double their capacity.

The country has also seen repeated escapes in recent years, most recently in September when prisoners broke out from the San Ramón prison in southern Peru.

Tren de Aragua gang members have already tested prison authorities in Chile.

In August, one member of the Gallegos was caught planning an escape from the northern prison of Arica.

And in early November, nine members of Tren de Aragua were transferred back to prisons in the Chilean cities of Santiago, Concepción, and Rancagua. They had previously been moved to a smaller facility in the central city of Valdivia but authorities there demanded they be transferred away. However, experts interviewed by Chilean newspaper, Bio Bio Chile, warned smaller prisons were not used to dealing with such dangerous inmates.   

“These are structures that are used to working from prison,” said Raúl Arancibia Cerda, the prosecutor for Chile’s northern region of Tarapacá, in an interview with InSight Crime last August concerning the spread of Tren de Aragua.

“I think our prison system is not ready yet [to hold Tren de Aragua members],” he said, adding that Chilean prisons have not had to face large prison riots or have had to manage the transfers and separation of specific gang members.

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

CHILE / 1 JUN 2022

A new report by Chilean think tank AthenaLab has laid bare Chile's ever-increasing spectrum of criminal threats, from copper theft…


A high-profile prisoner swap raises hopes of improving US-Venezuela relations and abilities to tackle organized crime.

COLOMBIA / 14 JUN 2021

A former FARC leader and veteran drug trafficker has sided with ex-commander Iván Márquez, a move that could prove crucial…

About InSight Crime


‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…


Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…


Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…


Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…


Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…