Photo: Insight Crime
The escalating violence between security forces and a gang in Venezuela’s foremost mining region shows how the breakdown of criminal and political alliances can lead to open conflict.
By Insight Crime –
May 17, 2021
Over the last year and a half, the El Perú Syndicate (Sindicato del Perú) – a gang that extorts illegal miners and operates crude gold processing plants in southern Bolívar state – has been the target of repeated operations by Venezuelan security forces. Several of its members have been arrested or killed, although its two top leaders, known only as alias “Toto” and “Zacarías,” remain at large.
Despite being vastly outnumbered, the criminal gang has fought back against the authorities. In late March, two of its members intercepted a truck transporting Wuihelm Torrellas Martínez, a politician and former member of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly. They took Torrellas Martínez hostage and demanded 15 kilograms of gold (worth over $500,000) for his release. While the politician managed to escape, his captors reportedly beheaded his bodyguard, according to Venezuelan media reports.
In April, a video circulated in which a member of the El Perú Syndicate, surrounded by masked gang members armed with assault rifles, made a veiled reference to Torrellas Martínez’s kidnapping, saying “a hostage doesn’t escape if his captors don’t let him go,” El Pitazo reported.
In the video, the gang member also demanded that President Nicolás Maduro send a commission within 78 hours to investigate crimes committed by security forces in the El Callao municipality, the group’s stronghold. If these conditions were not met, the group said, it would attack security forces in Bolívar and elsewhere in the country.
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