The U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Peruvian government announced the establishment of the first Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) in Peru to assist in transnational criminal investigations.
“Peru is facing an intense attack of urban terrorism perpetrated by the organization El Tren de Aragua, from Venezuela,” Jorge Serrano, a security expert and member of the team of advisors to Peru’s Congressional Intelligence Commission, told Diálogo on October 21. “The new TCIU will cover several fields and will be comprehensive.”
The cooperation aims to support transnational criminal investigations and combat crimes such as money laundering; drug, arms, and human trafficking; cybercrimes, environmental crimes; and exploitation of minors.
The agreement, signed on September 15 between Peruvian National Police Commander General Jorge Angulo and HSI Deputy Director of International Operations David Magdycz, “reflects a deep commitment shared by Peru and the United States in the fight against transnational crime and terrorism,” said Commander Angulo.
“This partnership represents a significant milestone in the collaboration between Washington and Lima,” added Peru’s Ambassador to the United States Gustavo Meza. “It not only addresses critical challenges affecting our countries, but also contributes to the security of global communities and the region as a whole.”
TCIUs collaborate with international partners, identify targets, and facilitate criminal prosecutions both in the United States and abroad. Since 2011, these units have trained more than 600 agents in 15 global locations, arresting 3,800 people and seizing millions of dollars in 2022 alone.
Tren de Aragua
“The Tren de Aragua represents an additional threat along with terrorism, drug trafficking, and transnational organized crime, which overloads the Peruvian police by having to deal with all these scourges simultaneously,” Serrano said. “The new TCIU will be dedicated to specifically addressing the Tren de Aragua problem and its ramifications.”
This complex and rapidly expanding organization carries out urban terrorism and murder for hire activities in several Latin American countries, which requires cooperation among police units and joint intelligence between nations, Serrano added.
The Tren de Aragua organization expanded its criminal activities to Colombia, Peru, Chile, and other countries. It establishes complex migrant smuggling and human trafficking networks, sowing fear in the countries of destination and in the migrant communities, which they cruelly exploit.
According to Serrano, the Tren de Aragua is under the control of the Venezuelan regime, operated by its military intelligence services in collaboration with Cuban intelligence services. “It’s a puppet created, trained, financed, and directed by them, to destabilize Latin American democracies.”
It is likely that the Tren de Aragua collaborates with Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers, which further complicates the situation, Serrano added. “They are also threatening high-ranking Peruvian police officers, an unprecedented event in the country’s history.”
This situation reached a critical point on October 5, when the PNP dismantled a faction of the Tren de Aragua. Police officers carried out 42 raids nationwide, which led to the arrest of 31 members of the gang who were dedicated to contract killings and human trafficking, recruiting Ecuadorian and Colombian women for sexual exploitation.
“Enduring cooperation between the United States and Peru leads to significant successes, such as the capture of Abimael Guzmán and the Shining Path leadership in 1992,” Serrano said.
This level of U.S.-Peruvian cooperation has been ongoing since the 1960s, an era of guerrilla warfare in Latin America. In Peru, the Cuban-backed Revolutionary Left Movement was dismantled in less than a year thanks to U.S. support, he said.
The new bilateral cooperation agreement establishes that the Peruvian police will select personnel from specialized units to join the new TCIU unit, for a period ranging from 2 to 5 years. Participation will be voluntary, and selected personnel will receive additional training.
Regional Task Force
“What could strengthen this cooperation would be the training of a Regional Task Force to combat organized crime, especially the Tren de Aragua and its offshoots,” Serrano concluded. “The U.S. could play a key role as coordinator of this new force, given that the threat is multinational in scope.”