One of Venezuela’s first "mega-gangs," known as Tren del Llano, have suffered months of targeted operations by security forces since 2021 and may now be on its last legs.
While the gang has existed since 2008 in the central states of Guarico and Aragua, it apparently recently overextended itself as it expanded into the state of Sucre. In November, reports emerged that the group's leader, Gilberto Malony Hernández, alias “Malony,” and members of the gang stole a cocaine shipment. This load was allegedly linked to the Cartel of the Suns, a term used to refer to drug trafficking cells embedded within the Venezuelan military.
On November 8, 2021, 500 members of Venezuela’s security forces were deployed to the communities of San Juan de Unare and San Juan de las Galdonas, in Sucre, to obliterate the group.
Eighteen members of the group were killed in the attack, including Malony. Although the group retreated, they published two videos in December of that year, claiming that they maintained a presence in Sucre , as well as in their historic stronghold of Guárico.
SEE ALSO: Profile of Tren del Llano
But the hunt for Tren del Llano did not stop there. In April 2022, after a video was published showing gang members extorting farmers Zaraza, Guárico, the regime sent in 800 men backed up by tanks. Security forces arrested and killed several members of the group in the operation.
The gang's fate was worsened in May when their new leader, José Pirela Armas, alias “Carlos Pirela,” was allegedly murdered by his own men, according to Venezuela's criminal investigations police (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas Penales y Criminalísticas - CICPC).
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The Venezuelan regime's operations against Tren del Llano, on top of its internal divisions, may spell the end for the group.
Tren del Llano was one of the first large gangs to emerge in Venezuela. From having a presence in Guárico since at least 2008, it rapidly expanded into the neighboring states of Miranda and Aragua.
Its founder, Antonio Tovar Colina, alias “El Picure,” became one of Venezuela’s most-wanted criminals until his death in 2016. He was succeeded by Malony. However, with both the historic leaders killed, there seems to have been no natural successor to take their place.
The murder of Carlos Pirela at the hands of his own men is further proof of this. And it is now uncertain Tren del Llano will be able to hold onto its territory in Sucre and Guárico.
The Venezuelan government has succeeded in similar operations, such as the one they deployed against Carlos Luis Revette, alias “El Koki” in Cota 905, that ended with the mega-gang leader's death in February 2022.
However, the large deployment of military personnel to Guárico has also been costly for the government. And, while they have managed to take out numerous members of Tren del Llano, this has been accompanied by reports of extrajudicial arrests, illegal raids and other abuses during such operations.