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By Pawel Styrna

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has now identified two of the suspects in the recent beating of police officers in Times Square as members of the Venezuelan gang, Tren de Aragua. The alleged perpetrators, Wilson Juarez, 21, and Kelvin Servita-Arocha, 19, were officially charged last week in the Jan. 27 attack.  They are now in ICE custody and being held without bail.

The arrests come as law enforcement is increasingly uncovering Tren de Aragua’s connection to criminal activity across the Big Apple.  NYC police now believe Tren de Aragua gang members are responsible for 62 robberies all over NYC, committed while riding on mopeds. In one particularly vicious case, a woman in her 60s was dragged down the sidewalk and slammed into a pole, sustaining serious injuries. Authorities believe the mastermind of the cell phone robbery scheme used social media (WhatsApp) to recruit criminal gang members from New York City’s taxpayer-funded migrant shelters and put out calls for cell phones. The phones were then hacked, the victims’ accounts drained, and the devices reprogrammed and sold by gang-affiliated fronts in Colombia.

With the scope of Tren de Aragua’s reach unfolding before their eyes, officials are scrambling to stop more gang-related crime before it happens.  The New York City Police Department last week issued a “Situational Awareness Alert” warning officers that Tren de Aragua is quickly spreading throughout City’s five boroughs.  Similarly, New York State National Guard troops are being told to check all migrants arriving in NYC for distinctive tattoos linking them to the gang.  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Tren de Aragua may be seeking to form a potential alliance with street gangs already in the United States. Reports indicate that the gang members have been coming through the southern border and then recruiting other migrants to join them especially unaccompanied minors in their teens.

Tren de Aragua is potentially the fastest-growing transnational criminal organization in the world. It began in Aragua state in northern Venezuela. As millions of Venezuelans left their homeland over the last two decades, initially migrating to other Latin American countries, Tren de Aragua followed them. Thus, the gang was spreading across Venezuela’s neighbors, from Chile to Columbia. Tren de Aragua has been known to use extreme violence in their new host countries, including making social media videos of gang members brazenly killing people.

The gang’s influence is now expanding outside of Latin America, including into the U.S. U.S. Border Patrol apprehended at least 41 Tren de Aragua members between October 2022 and September 2023, according to multiple media sources. Many Tren de Aragua members likely claim asylum to enter the United States, like so many other illegal border crossers, so that they will be quickly released. Some of those fake asylum seekers/gang members then make their way throughout the U.S. to prey on Americans and their fellow Venezuelans. The gang has quickly spread out throughout the country, including cities such as Miami and Chicago. In Miami, in November 2023, Tren de Aragua member Yurwin Salazar beat, tortured, and killed Venezuelan ex-police-officer Jose Luis Sanchez Valera and stole his entire life savings.

According to reports, some of Tren de Aragua’s members may have arrived in the U.S. after a prison break in September 2023.  At that time, approximately 1,000 gang members managed to escape Tocoron Prison in Venezuela, including Tren de Aragua head Héctor Rusthenford Guerrero Flores (“Niño Guerrero,” or “Warrior Boy”) along with 80 senior gang leaders. Interpol warns that Guerrero Flores may be hiding in the United States.

Not only is the gang itself dangerous, it has proven its willingness to work with other gangs for mutual benefit. For example, Tren de Aragua members work as enforcers from the “Cartel of the Suns” – which the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) believes is run by the Venezuelan regime, and specifically President Nicolas Maduro. In fact, the DOJ has already charged Maduro and other top Venezuelan officials with corruption, drug trafficking and even narco-terrorism in connection to the Cartel of the Suns. That is why some analysts believe the Tocoron prison break was “political theater” and Tren de Aragua criminals were intentionally allowed to escape.

The prospect of such a violent and ruthless criminal organization as Tren de Aragua in our communities, particularly if they team up with other gangs on U.S. soil, is truly horrifying. While some experts believe Tren de Aragua will ally with other gangs, others are more concerned about a bloody territorial war with other gangs. Both scenarios would be bad news and would expose Americans to more crime and danger – all of which would have been preventable if our borders were secure.

The Tren de Aragua gang from Venezuela has proven to be a serious challenge for many countries – from South America to the United States. Now, cities across the country are having to shoulder the burden from their crime and violence, while the Biden Administration continues to allow our borders to be open for more to enter.

For more information, see FAIR’s recent country study of Venezuela, which demonstrates how Biden policies have encouraged mass illegal migration from that country.

Author: Press Release


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