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