File photo of Bolivia's Minister of Interior, Eduardo del Castillo, , in La Paz, Bolivia, 18 August 2023.EFE/Luis Gandarillas

20 trafficking victims rescued in Bolivia, possibly linked to Venezuelan criminal gang

La Paz, Sept. 28 (EFE).- In an operation against human trafficking and smuggling carried out at a bus station, the Bolivian government reported on Thursday the rescue of about twenty people, the arrest of two and the investigation of a possible link to the international criminal gang “Tren de Aragua”.

The Interior Minister, Eduardo del Castillo, announced through his social networks that the operation was carried out at the terminal of El Alto, a city bordering La Paz, where a bus was intercepted with 20 people believed to be victims of human trafficking and smuggling.

Among the passengers were eight women, nine children and three men. Two people were detained “for investigative purposes” and, according to local media, both were taken to the Special Crime Squad for questioning.

“It is not excluded that there are links with the organization “Tren de Aragua”, strictly in matters related to human trafficking and smuggling,” said Del Castillo.

The international criminal gang “Tren de Aragua” is an organization that emerged in Venezuela in 2014 and has expanded to other countries such as Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia.

“Tren de Aragua” was born as a prison gang in the Tocorón penitentiary in Venezuela, with extortion of inmates as its first business, before expanding outside the prison and eventually throughout the continent.

The Venezuelan migration crisis was used by the criminal organization to spread to various South American countries, where it created networks and took over unauthorized border crossings through coercion, extortion, and corruption.

On Sept. 20, the government of Venezuela launched a plan to dismantle the criminal gangs operating out of the Tocorón prison, deploying 11,000 police officers and soldiers to take over the prison.

The Venezuelan government recognized three days later that the leader of the criminal gang, Héctor Guerrero, alias “Niño Guerrero”, was serving a 17-year sentence for homicide, drug trafficking, among other crimes, and his lieutenants had escaped through a tunnel along with other inmates of the prison shortly before an intervention. EFE