Colombia captures one of the founders of the Tren de Aragua gang, wanted in Venezuela and Chile

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombian police arrested one of the founders of Tren de Aragua, a transnational gang that was founded in a Venezuelan prison and is now involved in multiple criminal enterprises throughout Latin America, authorities said Monday.

Larry Álvarez was arrested near the town of Circasia in central Colombia, according to a statement released by the country's national police, which shared a video showing a shirtless Álvarez being handcuffed by agents outside a small home. Police said the gang leader had tried to avoid arrest as agents approached.

Álvarez, also known as Larry Changa, is wanted in Chile and Venezuela for the alleged crimes of terrorism, financing terrorism, weapons trafficking, extortion and kidnapping, Colombia’s police said.

The 45-year-old is believed to be one of the three founders of the Tren de Aragua, a gang that started almost two decades ago in the Tocoron prison in Venezuela’s Aragua state. Recently, the gang has increased its influence in other South American countries, where prosecutors have accused it of running extortion rackets and human trafficking networks that target Venezuelan migrants. Colombian prosecutors have also reported that the gang, whose name means “train” in Spanish, is also involved in drug shipments out of Colombia.

Colombian police said Álvarez escaped from the Tocoron prison in 2015 and resurfaced in Chile three years later. But he later escaped to Colombia as Chilean authorities closed in on him, and entered the country in 2022, using a fake ID.

Prosecutors in Chile this year blamed the Tren de Aragua gang for the kidnapping and murder of a former Venezuelan army official who had sought refuge in that country after being accused of leading a plot to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Chilean prosecutors also blamed the gang for the murder of a local police officer, with President Gabriel Boric accusing the Venezuelan government of not doing enough to investigate the leadership of the Tren de Aragua gang — a charge denied by Venezuelan prosecutors.

Colombian police said that Álvarez is currently in custody. Officials in Colombia will now decide whether he will be extradited to Venezuela or Chile.


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