Notorious Venezuelans infiltrate Trinidad and Tobago gangs

By Mark Bassant, Trinidad Guardian

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Venezuelan nationals Miguel Velasquez and another identified only as “Freddie” were among four people killed by police in Chaguanas last Friday

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — A mur­der­ous and no­to­ri­ous Venezue­lan gang has in­fil­trat­ed Trinidad and To­ba­go’s bor­ders and many of them are now part of the crim­i­nal land­scape that has in­ten­si­fied this coun­try’s vi­o­lence over the last few months.

The find­ings, se­nior in­tel­li­gence sources say, are con­tained in a num­ber of se­cret in­tel­li­gence re­ports that have been re­cent­ly pre­pared by var­i­ous arms of lo­cal law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties.

Guardian Me­dia saw the re­ports which high­light­ed the wor­ry­ing trend of the pres­ence here of mem­bers of the Venezue­lan gang Evande. Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers say sev­er­al hun­dred mem­bers of Evande, which re­port­ed­ly has more than 650 mem­bers, are in this coun­try il­le­gal­ly.

The law en­force­ment re­ports say Evande mem­bers have been re­spon­si­ble for sev­er­al vi­o­lent crimes in Venezuela, in­clud­ing high pro­file kid­nap­pings and mur­ders. How­ev­er, Evande mem­bers here have now em­bed­ded them­selves with lo­cal gangs and have al­so sought jobs on con­struc­tion sites across the coun­try. The re­ports al­so point­ed to the gang’s in­volve­ment in the traf­fick­ing of nar­cotics and firearms in­to this coun­try.

What au­thor­i­ties have al­so un­rav­elled in their in­ves­ti­ga­tion is that Evande mem­bers fled Venezuela for T&T not on­ly to es­cape ri­val gangs, but al­so the Venezue­lan Guardia Na­cional who were giv­en in­struc­tions to dis­man­tle their op­er­a­tions due to their “vi­o­lent and heinous na­ture.”

One se­nior in­tel­li­gence said, “This is go­ing to have a domi­no ef­fect in Trinidad and To­ba­go. With more drug seizures some­one is go­ing to have to pay the price.”

An­oth­er high rank­ing in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer fa­mil­iar with the re­port said the Venezue­lan gangs op­er­ate with a dif­fer­ent modus operan­di.

“These gang mem­bers move in groups and when they are go­ing to put down a hit they move with AK47s. If their tar­get is one per­son, they will open fire on that per­son even if there are oth­er peo­ple around. They will not be both­ered if in­no­cent peo­ple are killed. And that’s the dif­fer­ence with these Venezue­lan gangs,” he ex­plained.

Crim­i­nol­o­gist Dar­ius Figueira, who spoke to the T&T Guardian last Sat­ur­day, said Venezue­lan gangs have been set­ting up or­gan­ised crim­i­nal op­er­a­tions here and us­ing their com­pa­tri­ots in these ac­tiv­i­ties.

“They are pros­ti­tut­ing un­der the di­rec­tions and con­trol of Venezuela’s or­gan­ised crime, which is dis­turb­ing the bal­ance of forces on the ground in T&T’s gang­land,” Figueira said.

Figueira al­so al­lud­ed to the fact that these Venezue­lan gangs form coali­tions with lo­cal gangs. He said those Venezue­lans have al­ready af­fil­i­at­ed them­selves with lo­cal gang­land op­er­a­tors and they are not afraid to die.

Two se­nior in­tel­li­gence sources re­vealed to Guardian Me­dia that they have re­ceived cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion that at least three Venezue­lan na­tion­als shot and killed over the last month and a half in T&T were in some way con­nect­ed to the Evande gang.

One Venezue­lan na­tion­al was found dead on Feb­ru­ary 21 but is yet to be iden­ti­fied. His body was found dumped off Morne Co­co Road, Pe­tit Val­ley, with gun­shot wounds and his hands tied be­hind his back. Sources say he was a mem­ber of the Evande gang al­so they have not been able to con­firm his giv­en name. The oth­er Venezue­lan na­tion­als who had ties to the gang were Alexan­der Ce­de­no Ro­ro­ba, who was shot and killed near the El Pecos Grill in Wood­brook re­cent­ly. The man was re­port­ed­ly an asy­lum seek­er, but po­lice sources told Guardian last week that he worked as a hit­man in Venezuela.

The third Venezue­lan with deep ties to Evande was Jose Ro­driguez, 36, who was shot and killed by a lone gun­man while dri­ving along the West­ern Main Road in Glen­coe last Thurs­day.

One of the se­nior in­tel­li­gence sources ex­plained that Ro­driguez was able to get a ship­ment of co­caine from a Colom­bian link for a busi­ness­man in this coun­try. How­ev­er, the ship­ment was in­ter­cept­ed by po­lice sev­er­al months ago and Ro­driguez told the busi­ness­man the mon­ey for the mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar ship­ment was still owed to the Colom­bians. But the busi­ness­man, the in­tel­li­gence source ex­plained, lat­er had Ro­driguez ex­e­cut­ed to can­cel out the debt.

“But be­cause these Colom­bian drug deal­ers are so con­nect­ed to Venezue­lan gangs and they are still owed mon­ey, it is on­ly a mat­ter of time be­fore they come knock­ing.”

CoP mon­i­tors grow­ing pat­tern

Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith has not­ed a “grow­ing pat­tern of cer­tain el­e­ments from the South Amer­i­can main­land at­tempt­ing to set up their trade of il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in this coun­try.”

In a re­lease yes­ter­day, Grif­fith warned that this emerg­ing pat­tern could com­pro­mise the coun­try’s se­cu­ri­ty.

In an in­ter­view ear­li­er, how­ev­er, Grif­fith had re­fused to com­ment on the in­tel­li­gence re­ports on the Venezue­lan gang­sters in­fil­trat­ing T&T gangs and be­com­ing in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ty.

He al­so said he did not have any in­for­ma­tion to counter claims made by crim­i­nol­o­gist Dar­ius Figueira on Venezue­lan gangs now in­fil­trat­ing the coun­try.

In his re­lease last evening, he al­so stopped short of mak­ing any ref­er­ence to the T&T Guardian’s ex­clu­sive sto­ry. How­ev­er, he re­it­er­at­ed his po­si­tion on de­port­ing per­sons of in­ter­est back to their coun­tries.

He said to pre­vent a re­cur­rence of an in­ci­dent at the Freeport Po­lice Sta­tion in­volv­ing Venezue­lan women at­tack­ing of­fi­cers, of­fi­cers will now be “equipped with pep­per spray and tasers in tan­dem with the min­i­mum use of force pol­i­cy.”

In re­la­tion to that par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent, Grif­fith said if the Venezue­lan na­tion­als are found to have over­stayed their time here they will be de­port­ed im­me­di­ate­ly.

Grif­fith al­so not­ed a num­ber of il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in­volv­ing non-na­tion­als who were ei­ther per­pe­tra­tors or vic­tims of crime over the past few months.

Cit­i­zens warned to be vig­i­lant

Se­cret in­tel­li­gence re­ports com­piled by law en­force­ment agen­cies have ad­vised all arms of the pro­tec­tive ser­vices to be vig­i­lant of the ex­is­tence of mem­bers of the Venezue­lan gang Evande and their po­ten­tial threat to na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty here in Trinidad and To­ba­go.

The re­port al­so urged cit­i­zens to be­ware of their pub­lic sur­round­ings near their gro­ceries, homes, mar­kets and oth­er pub­lic ar­eas.

In­struc­tions were al­so giv­en to cross-ref­er­ence Venezue­lan na­tion­als who en­tered Trinidad and To­ba­go il­le­gal­ly with sev­er­al law en­force­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing the as­sis­tance of In­ter­pol.

Crime in­volv­ing non-na­tion­als Jan-April 2019:

• Four Venezue­lans mur­dered

• Two Chi­nese men, one Venezue­lan woman and one Guyanese man charged in sex-ring bust

• Nine­teen fe­male non-na­tion­al mi­nors res­cued from hu­man traf­fick­ing ring

• Nine non-na­tion­als ar­rest­ed for pos­ses­sion of nar­cotics

• Five de­tainees es­caped the Im­mi­gra­tion De­ten­tion Cen­tre

• Po­lice res­cued four Venezue­lan women from a house at Diego Mar­tin

• Fifty-six Venezue­lans ar­rest­ed and charged for il­le­gal en­try

• Six Venezue­lan women at­tack po­lice

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