Venezuela is falling short in the fight against regional crime

Carolina Toha, Chile’s Interior Minister who is serving as interim president this week, speaks during an interview in Santiago, Chile, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Photographer: Tamara Merino/Bloomberg

Chile’s government will pressure Venezuela to step up the fight against crime as Latin America faces the threat of international gangs, a senior cabinet member said in an interview.

By Bloomberg

Collaboration with countries such as Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia has produced results, Carolina Toha said in the Bloomberg office in Santiago. Chile needs Venezuela to provide information on citizens suspected of crimes locally, and also help capture suspects who have fled abroad, she said.

“There are strategies with the entire region, and with some countries it has been easier than with others,” Toha said. “It has been complex with Venezuela.”

Toha, who is the nation’s interior minister and is serving as interim president this week while head of state Gabriel Boric is on an official trip abroad, spoke as the government prepared for heavy rains in the center and south of the country. .

Toha leads the government’s crime-fighting strategy and is one of Chile’s most influential and experienced ministers. His responsibilities are among the most challenging in local politics. Gangs affiliated with the Tren de Aragua criminal organization, which originated in Venezuela, are raising fears among voters that violence is getting out of control, weighing heavily on the administration’s support.

“The Aragua Train has reached Latin America as a whole,” he stated. “Venezuela has a theory that they dismantled the gang hierarchy. But the truth is that we have seen how organized crime is extremely dynamic.”

Toha, a former deputy of the Lower House and spokesperson for Michelle Bachelet’s government, said that Chile will keep the channels open and will seek solutions with the Venezuelan government. Chile will also present its point of view before international organizations.

“Venezuela has certain international obligations with us and at a multilateral level that it must comply with,” said Toha.

Venezuela’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The growth of the Aragua Train is closely linked to the exodus of more than 7 million Venezuelans during the last decade. Countries such as Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile have expressed concern about kidnappings, drug trafficking and murders attributed to the group.

Last week, the government sent a note of protest to Nicolás Maduro’s administration after prosecutor Tarek William Saab alleged that Chilean intelligence officials were involved in the kidnapping and murder of Venezuelan political refugee Ronald Ojeda earlier this year. Chile has said Venezuela is not willing to help with the murder investigation.

To read the full note, here

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