Phones stolen by Tren del Norte

Authorities in Venezuela have killed four members of a criminal group that allegedly commands 30 smaller groups, suggesting a level of sophistication and organization that could mean Venezuelan criminals are moving closer to making the leap into transnational organized crime.

The four members of a group known as Tren del Norte were killed in a shootout with security forces on May 6, reported Venezuelan newspaper Panorama. A spokesman for national police agency CICPC said the group was responsible for extortion, robbery, car theft, hired assassinations, drug trafficking, burglary and bank robbery in the northern and western sections of Maracaibo, Venezuela's second largest city.

Tren del Norte has been linked to numerous homicides, including the recent death of a woman who was attending a child's birthday party when members of the group broke into the party venue and opened fire.

InSight Crime Analysis

The organization and range of activities of Tren del Norte echoes that of an "oficina de cobro" -- a Colombian criminal structure that provides services such as assassinations and debt collecting for larger organizations, but also engages in its own activities, such as micro-trafficking and extortion. As appears to be the case with Tren del Norte, these Colombian organizations also use the services of affiliated gangs.

In addition to its size and level of organization, Tren del Norte has apparently recruited National Guard members and uses high-caliber weapons, two more indications of its sophistication.

Venezuela is already a hub for transnational crime as it is a key transit country for Colombian drug shipments headed to the United States and Europe. This is especially true in the Colombian border region, where Maracaibo is located, where drugs and contraband items like fuel are smuggled across the land border, and drug flights are dispatched.

However, aside from the country's military, the trade is dominated by foreign groups. Several Colombian organizations, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and BACRIM (for the Spanish "bandas criminales" -- criminal bands) maintain a presence in the region, while Mexico's Zetas have also been reported to operate in the region. 

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles 

The situation is exacerbated by widespread protests and civil unrest in Venezuela throughout 2014, which have kept the police preoccupied with political problems. The chaos created by these protests, coupled with a weak administration, provides fertile ground for the development of criminal groups.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.