A Man in Violence-Ravaged Haiti
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The arrest of Larry Álvarez Nuñez, a co-founder and principal leader of Venezuelan gang Tren de Aragua in Colombia, marks the most significant blow to its leadership since its conception, according to an analysis by InSight Crime.

On July 1, the Colombian National Police captured Álvarez, also known as "Larry Changa," in a mansion in Circasia, located in the coffee-growing region of Quindio. Álvarez, who was being held in Tocorón prison in Venezuela where Tren de Aragua originated in 2007, had escaped in 2015 with the gang's assistance. His whereabouts remained unknown until 2018 when he surfaced in Chile.

In Chile, Álvarez played a crucial role in the growth and consolidation of Tren de Aragua, transforming it into one of the country's major criminal groups. Under his leadership, the gang controlled key border crossings, engaged in migrant smuggling, human trafficking, and extortion in urban areas. Additionally, the group expanded its criminal activities to include kidnapping for ransom, drug dealing, and money laundering.

Tren de Aragua's cells across South America have adapted to the urban criminal dynamics of each city they operate in, a strategy Álvarez helped establish. In Santiago, authorities discovered Álvarez's connection to two vehicles involved in homicides. Despite his statement identifying himself as part of Tren de Aragua, insufficient evidence led to his release.

Following the collapse of criminal control of the Tocorón prison in Venezuela in September 2023, the capture of Larry Changa represents the most significant disruption to the gang's operations to date. His detention creates an unprecedented leadership vacuum within the group.

According to the analysis, the incarceration of Álvarez and other senior leaders could lead to the emergence of new factions, similar to what occurred with the Tren del Coro in Arica, a former faction of Tren de Aragua that went independent following the arrest and murder of several original leaders.

With Álvarez's capture, the future of his faction, the Pirates of Aragua, remains uncertain. So far, no new leadership has emerged to take over the mantle of Tren de Aragua in the region.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio requested that Tren de Aragua be designated as a transnational criminal organization. "This is a vicious gang. They initially set themselves up in Venezuelan prisons and later became endemic in Peru, Panama, Bolivia and Brazil," he said.

"Now we're seeing evidence they reached the U.S. Every day we see reports from Chicago, south Florida and New York showing that they are here."

Rubio had already sent the Biden administration a letter along with Florida Representative Maria Elvira Salazar with such a request.

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