The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) led Operation Turquesa III to counter human trafficking, November 29-December 3, 2021. Authorities from 34 countries in the hemisphere rescued 127 victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation and arrested 216 criminals.
Tren de Aragua
The Ecuadorian National Police reported the arrest of 16 criminals during Operation Turquesa III, all members of the Venezuelan criminal group Tren de Aragua, which engages in human trafficking and contract killings.
Authorities conducted 12 raids in Carchi province, where they found handheld terminals, credit cards, IDs of the detainees and alleged victims, cash, and computers, the Ecuadorian Office of the Attorney General said on November 30.
“The Tren de Aragua has close to 3,000 men to perpetrate crimes throughout South America,” the Chilean news outlet Meganoticias reported on October 16. “The Police determined that the gang had agreements with Colombian guerrillas, who allowed them passage in exchange for money,” the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Government reported.
The Tren de Aragua operated in the border city of Tulcán, Ecuador, where it recruited its victims, José Luis Garcés, head of Ecuador’s Childhood, Adolescence, and Family Directorate, told the Dominican newspaper Listín Diario on November 29, 2021.
“In Ecuador, 83 percent of [human] trafficking victims are girls and women,” Ecuadorian Judge Arturo Márquez told El Peruano newspaper in October. Sexual and labor exploitation are the most common causes of human trafficking, accounting for 64 and 35 percent respectively, the United Nations website indicates.
During Turquesa III, Colombia dismantled a criminal network in Bogotá known as Casa Inglesa, which engaged in human trafficking for the sexual exploitation of children, who were recruited in Venezuela, transported to Colombia, and then sent to Ecuador, Interpol said.
Meanwhile, Salvadoran authorities arrested 27 individuals for child abuse and labor exploitation, Interpol added. In Belize, police rescued 11 victims of human trafficking, including a Honduran mother and her three children.
In Chile, the discovery of a Venezuelan national’s body on the border with Bolivia enabled authorities to identify a trafficking corridor of Venezuelans. Paraguayan and Argentine Police forces joined efforts to rescue a child who was a sexual exploitation victim, Interpol said.
Jürgen Stock, Interpol secretary general, acknowledged the strong mobilization and coordination behind international Operation Turquesa III. “Each operation reinforces our network, casting a wider net against organized crime. By working together, we dismantle criminal structures, we cut off major sources of profit, and most importantly, we rescue innocent victims.”