The Train

 Insight Crime had a piece titled “How Tren de Aragua Controls The Destiny of Migrants From Venezuela To Chile”. Tren, in Spanish is Train, so Tren de Aragua is Train from Aragua. It sounds rather quaint…it’s anything but. Tren de Aragua is Venezuela’s largest homegrown gang and has become a transnational criminal threat. With expertise in migrant smuggling, human trafficking, and extortion (among other things) the group has followed the exodus of Venezuelan migrants and found ways to set up permanent operations in several Latin American nations. It’s latest victim is Chile, where Tren de Aragua has become a significant security concern.

 For example, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, a couple was cleaning windows and selling sweets, daughter in-tow, as they had for several months since arriving in Bolivia as migrants from Venezuela. The man left for a few hours and when he returned his wife and daughter were gone. After searching for them for a few days Tren de Aragua got in touch with him. He was told his family had been kidnapped and sent to Chile. If he wanted to see them again he would have to transport cocaine for them from Bolivia to Chile in a double- bottomed suitcase. Having no choice, he agreed and was arrested on his way to Chile. The whereabouts of his wife and daughter are still unknown.

 Insight Crime has documented similar cases from various cities in Bolivia where Tren de Aragua is systematically preying on migrant women, bringing them to Chile, and sexually exploiting them. (I might interject that Venezuelan women present enticing targets due to their prevalent attractive features) Chilean authorities have made Tren de Aragua one of their foremost security priorities. Authorities report they are moving drugs, people, and weapons across the border with Bolivia and are connected to homicide,kidnapping, migrant smuggling, and trafficking of persons for sexual exploitation and extortion.

 Chile is the southernmost stop for the Venezuelan gang that has already expanded to Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia following the path of the migrants and engage in both migrant smuggling (moving people voluntarily across national borders) and human trafficking (victims detained against their will and exploited). Along each transit route through the various countries Tren de Aragua has developed an international network recruiting local “coyotes” and smaller gangs.

 The expansion has been so rapid it’s difficult to know exactly which local groups are actually under the control of “Nino Guerrero”, the leader of Tren de Aragua, which he runs from Venezuela’s Tocoron Prison. Some groups are under direct control and others are franchised to smaller groups involving Venezuelans. While the homicide rate has gone down nationally in Chile it is triple the rate in areas with Tren de Aragua. As the mega-gang is in excellent position to brutally defend it’s turf, as it has in Venezuela and Colombia, the trend can be expected to continue.

 Then we have World Politics Review telling us that a thaw in US/Venezuela relations is unlikely even if the Biden administration lifts oil sanctions on Venezuela (and Biden is just gullible enough to do so). There are also sanctions on Venezuela debt, gold, cryptocurrency, and various military-owned industries. Numerous individual sanctions go all the way back to the George W. Bush administration. (See.. sanctions weren’t just a “Trump thing”)

 With the anti-Maduro regime sentiment in both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, as well as his unpopularity with most Venezuelan-Americans, a major reversal is doubtful without regime change (which isn’t happening any time soon). Maduro also loves to flaunt the fact that he has survived sanctions more than to give too many concessions to have sanctions removed. (Doing something to benefit the long-suffering people of Venezuela isn’t even on his radar) A normalization with the Maduro regime would be seen as both a US defeat and encouragement to those who violate Human Rights and engage in fraudulent/sham elections. (And it would, of course, be welcomed by the Democratic Socialists of America)

 Then we have another piece from CBP. The Communist Party of Britain needs to come up with some new terms and phrases. They refer to the Maduro regime’s criminalization of opponents as a “neo-liberal” policy. They see everything through the Marxist lens. Repression/oppression has nothing to do with neo-liberalism (free market capitalism). The Democrats in the US have the same problem seeing everything as “racist”. I guess when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Get some new material!

 And we have La Prensa Latina telling us that business associations in Cucuta, Colombia on the Venezuela border are anxious for the full border reopening in August. 400 trucks crossed the border into Venezuela from Colombia and 200 trucks from Venezuela to Colombia using the main international bridge daily. Since Nicolas Maduro closed the border to vehicular traffic in 2015 daily traffic is only on foot.

 And we have News Times reporting that a co-pilot accused of trying to help smuggle 1,700 kilos of cocaine into the US from Venezuela has been extradited to face charges in US Federal Court.

 Then we have Argus Media reporting Venezuela’s Jose Refining Complex is restarting after being offline for over a week due to a pipeline fire. Other than the usual baseless accusations of terrorism by the Maduro regime we still don’t know what caused the fire.

 And from CLS, in an article on Sovereign debt restructuring there was barely a mention of Venezuela, whose Sovereign debt has been in default for years now. Could it be that nobody’s going to restructure it (remember, the guy Maduro initially put in charge of restructuring was prohibited by sanctions from talking to bond holders) and just let the bond vultures have it?

 Then we have Merco Press reporting that an Argentine judge has released the cargo of the Emtrasur Boeing 747 (Venezuelan/Iranian?) detained in Argentina for about six weeks. The crew, who have also been prevented from leaving the country, are expected to be allowed to return home. The drama appears to be over but the speculation will certainly continue. As we told you from the outset, it could be something…or it could be nothing.

 And we have NBC News telling us that thousands of Venezuelan migrants, stranded in southern Mexico for months (Mexico now requires visas for Venezuelans so many were waiting for transit papers), are now headed north to the US southern border. We’ll keep you posted.

 More tomorrow….

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