Peru Dismantles Venezuelan Criminal Group Cell and Arrests 61

Published: 24 April 2023

Peru Police RaidPeruvian police cracked down on a cell of the Venezuelan criminal group Tren de Aragua. (Photo: Policía Nacional del Perú, License)

By Vinicius Madureira

Peruvian police have dismantled a cell of the Venezuelan criminal group Tren de Aragua and arrested 61 of its members who were reportedly involved in extortion and loan sharking, including the collection of fees from prostitutes working in various parts of Peru’s capital.

The group included 18 women and 43 men who were offering loans known as “gota a gota,” or “drop by drop,” the Interior Ministry announced this week.

The practice involves lending money at high interest rates to people and business owners who have trouble obtaining credit. The cash often comes from illegal activities, including drug trafficking. The alleged criminals were reportedly operating under orders from dangerous criminals in Venezuela.

This type of loan sharking began in Medellín in the 1990s as a way to launder drug trafficking proceeds and is now widespread in several Latin American countries. It is said that up to the equivalent of US$800,000 are moved daily only in Colombia through these lending networks.

During the raid, officials seized a grenade, which was found inside a mototaxi, and a small firearm with a loaded magazine and no serial number. In addition, officers confiscated 30 plastic bags containing marijuana, 10 bags with cocaine, and a large quantity of synthetic drug packages known as Tussi, or pink cocaine.

The arrests were carried out after several intelligence operations coordinated by members of the Homicide Investigation Division and the Criminal Investigation Directorate of the National Police.

Officials from the Immigration Division of Peruvian police, the National Superintendency of Migrations, and the Venezuelan Embassy are coordinating and exchanging information about the criminal records of the detainees in both Peru and Venezuela.