Biden administration designates Venezuela gang as transnational criminal organization

The Biden administration designated a Venezuelan gang a transnational criminal organization on Thursday.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control accused Tren de Aragua of human trafficking, gender-based violence, money laundering and drug trafficking. It is offering up to a $12 million reward for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of Tren de Aragua’s leaders.

Any property or interests in property that Tren de Aragua has in the U.S. or that are in possession of people from the U.S. “must be blocked and reported” to the Treasury Department, as a result of the sanctions accompanying the group’s designation as a transnational criminal organization.

Sanctioning Tren de Aragua as a transnational criminal organization “underscores the escalating threat it poses to American communities,” Brian Nelson, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a Treasury Department statement announcing the designation.

“As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to target Transnational Criminal Organizations, we will deploy all tools and authorities against organizations like Tren de Aragua that prey on vulnerable populations to generate revenue, engage in a range of criminal activities across borders, and abuse the U.S. financial system,” Nelson added.

Tren de Aragua originated as a prison gang in Aragua, Venezuela, but has “quickly expanded throughout the Western Hemisphere in recent years,” the department said in its release.

The gang generates revenue through criminal activities like human trafficking, drug trafficking, and extortion, according to the department.

The department said trafficking victims, who are typically migrant women and girls, are often killed by the gang when they try to escape. Their deaths are publicized as a threat to others, the department said.

“Tren de Aragua poses a deadly criminal threat across the region. For example, Tren de Aragua leverages its transnational networks to traffic people, especially migrant women and girls, across borders for sex trafficking and debt bondage,” the department said in its statement.

The State Department issued a Do Not Travel advisory in May for Venezuela due “to crime, civil unrest, kidnapping, and the arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

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