Venezuela deploys 11,000 troops to take over the prison from which the Aragua Train governs | International

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The Government of Venezuela advanced early this Wednesday against the lair of the Aragua Train, a criminal gang with international ramifications that operates from the Tocorón Penitentiary Center, in the state of Aragua, two hours from the capital. The authorities have called the raid the Cacique Guaicaipuro Liberation Operation and in its first phase they have described it as successful. Despite the success celebrated in a statement, the Government has not confirmed the capture of the leaders of the organization such as Héctor Rutherford Guerrero Flores, alias El Niño Guerrero, who has governed the prison for a decade with the consent of the authorities, nor of his lieutenants. . Some versions indicate that the criminals escaped before the prison was taken.

The Aragua Train became a regional problem. The enormous migration of Venezuelans in the last five years also fueled the exodus of gang members and their involvement in new crimes such as human trafficking and trafficking in women. This band was born between 2013 and 2015 and had its origins in the unions involved in the construction of a railway line in the center of the country, which has never been completed. First they dedicated themselves to extorting merchants and surrounding residents, then they ventured into the crimes of kidnapping and drug trafficking and became a transnational organization.

A soldier closes the main door of the Penitentiary Center during the military intervention, on September 20.Ariana Cubillos (AP)

Its leader, El Niño Guerrero, made the Tocorón prison his center of operations and his own country, which he maintained by collecting the causea bribe of between 8 and 10 dollars a week that the almost 3,000 detainees had to pay to stay alive inside the penitentiary, a system implemented in a large part of the country's prisons. For years, a nightclub, swimming pool, shops, betting centers, a zoo and restaurants such as El Sazón del Hampa operated without any State control, according to a report by Runrunes. Other investigations indicate that the band has satellites inside and outside the country, in at least 13 of the 24 states of Venezuela and in Colombia, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Costa Rica. It has been estimated that it is made up of about 4,000 men and it has been reported that in recent years they have declared war on members of the ELN in Venezuela for control of illicit activities on the border with Colombia.

The Government indicated in the statement that the operation has dismantled "a center of conspiracy and crime, used by an international criminal network against the Venezuelan population." The Venezuelan Prisons Observatory has reported that the takeover was agreed upon with some of the inmates and that also, according to sources managed by the organization, some of them fled through tunnels and mountains surrounding the prison. “As an organization we are in favor of regaining control of the prisons that are under the pranato (as the criminal leadership of the prisons is called), but we do not believe in negotiated takeovers so that the pranes leave and do not pay for the crimes committed,” the NGO said in a statement.

Relatives of prisoners look at the soldiers during the operation at the Penitentiary Center.
Relatives of prisoners look at the soldiers during the operation at the Penitentiary Center.Ariana Cubillos (AP)

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The Government assured that the enormous deployment of security forces prevented a massive escape from the Tocorón prison. In statements to the state channel VTV, the Minister of the Interior and Justice, Remigio Ceballos, indicated that the police and military have “guaranteed the human rights of those deprived of liberty,” as well as “the life and tranquility of the people in the adjacent towns.” ”. Nicolás Maduro has congratulated him on television, while this Wednesday in Geneva the Fact-Finding Mission presented its fourth report to the United Nations in which it denounces that the violations, the persecution of dissent, torture and arbitrary detentions, the closure of media, among other violations of human rights and crimes against humanity continue to occur in Venezuela as a systematic practice of the State. Although researchers acknowledge that cases have decreased, they warn that “attacks in civic space have intensified” and have become more selective against union leaders, activists and press workers.

So far there have been no reports of deaths, injuries or detainees in Tocorón after the deployment of 11,000 security officials early this Wednesday. Some videos from the scene show some private shacks built in the prison where some of the prisoners lived set on fire, after several hours of detonations and the mobilization of tanks and armored vehicles from Caracas.

Soldiers sitting on the roof of an armored vehicle during the intervention, this Wednesday.
Soldiers sitting on the roof of an armored vehicle during the intervention, this Wednesday.Ariana Cubillos (AP)

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