HomeNewsVenezuela's Smaller Gangs Carve Out Local Criminal Fiefdoms
NEWS

Venezuela's Smaller Gangs Carve Out Local Criminal Fiefdoms

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 SEP 2021 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

The visual is an arresting one. A Venezuelan Army sergeant, his face swollen and his nose bleeding, is forced to speak on camera and tell his superiors to leave his captors alone. He was then set free.

The video, released on August 28 but filmed a few days earlier, was reportedly shot near Troncal 10, a highway linking Venezuela’s northern states of Monagas and Sucre. “Please, friends, stop this [referring to military operations]…don’t mess with the population, these boys won’t mess with you,” the soldier was made to say.

Those responsible are known as the Curi gang (Banda del Curi), named for their leader El Curi. The gang captured the sergeant in the municipality of Ribero. InSight Crime spoke to a number of security officials and drivers who travel the highway to obtain a panorama of the gang. These sources requested anonymity for fear of retribution.

Believed to have about 60 members, the Curi gang has been extorting truck and bus drivers along Troncal 10 since 2019, as well as robbing those who refused to pay.

SEE ALSO: Enemies to Allies - How Venezuela Decides Which Criminal Groups Thrive

These attacks have ramped up since June 2021, however, culminating in the detention of the army sergeant in late August. Apart from one army operation in 2020, which allegedly killed six gang members, the Curi gang has not received much attention from authorities. Security officials interviewed by InSight Crime attributed this to the gang having close connections to military units in the area as well as receiving support and warnings from local communities.  

However, this impunity may now be at an end. Since the video was released, the Army sent in 200 soldiers to stop the gang, and several arrests have taken place in early September.

InSight Crime Analysis

Coverage of Venezuela’s criminal landscape is often focused on larger-scale threats, such as Colombian guerrilla groups operating along the border. But smaller gangs have often established localized but strong areas of control that prove hard to break.

According to local security officials, El Curi enjoys a Robin Hood-like reputation among towns near the highway due to his generosity. This has helped to protect him and his men.

Similar situations can be found across Venezuela, with smaller, localized gangs increasing their power in rural areas or on the outskirts of cities, where security forces are not so prevalent.

One group comparable to El Curi is the Carlos Capa gang, which carries out extortion, kidnapping and robberies in Valles del Tuy on the outskirts of Caracas. Similar to El Curi, Carlos Capa has established control of various municipalities through a network of official connections that has allowed him to survive in this role for close to a decade.

Over this time, the band has been under investigation on several occasions, especially after being connected to attacks on police stations and the murders of officials.

SEE ALSO: The Unlikely Resistance of a Lone Mining Gang in Venezuela

However, the Carlos Capa gang has survived various operations aimed at taking it down, thanks to a network of informants among local security forces. In order to continue surviving, he has had to keep his head down of late.

The Curi gang may now face a similar situation. Their recent actions have increased their notoriety, which might help cow a few more truck drivers, but have also firmly placed a target on their backs.

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.

DONATE

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.

DONATE

Related Content

EL KOKI / 23 JUL 2021

Salesmen in Caracas have come up with an enterprising response to the Venezuelan capital’s descent into criminal warfare: selling devotional…

EX-FARC MAFIA / 13 OCT 2021

The Colombian guerrillas have won a battle against the Venezuelan military in the state of Apure. But they will never…

COCA / 22 DEC 2020

President-elect Joe Biden wants to reset US-Latin American relations, but the Trump administration’s approach may leave scars.

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…