Biden administration designates dangerous Venezuelan gang as a transnational criminal organization

The Biden administration will designate a dangerous Venezuelan gang infiltrating the United States as a significant transnational criminal organization on Thursday, according to a senior administration official, who described the gang as an “emerging threat.”

Tren de Aragua, a transnational criminal gang that originated in a Venezuela prison and has slowly made its way south and north in recent years, is raising alarm among US officials.

Tren de Aragua adopted its name between 2013 and 2015 but began operations years before, according to a report by Transparency Venezuela. For several years, the criminal group has terrorized South American countries, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile and Peru, and has gradually made its way into the US.

“The ‘Tren de Aragua’ is in the United States. We already have evidence that they crossed the border and we were able to confirm that through interviews with gang members after the crossing. They are crossing and there is a presence,” FBI deputy special agent in charge of El Paso, Britton Boyd, told CNN earlier this year.

In March, a group of lawmakers called on the administration to designate Tren de Aragua as a transnational criminal organization to deploy resources and sanctions to crack down on the group. The administration took that step Thursday.

The transnational criminal organization designation, which takes effect immediately, will allow the Treasury Department to essentially cut off members from the US financial system.

“As we’re seeing the movement of TDA members north, in particular, we think it’s critical that we take action to address this,” the senior administration official said, adding that law enforcement agencies also continue to investigate and prosecute individuals associated with the gang.

“This is an emerging threat that we have been focused on for some time—and are trying to make sure that we stay on top of and get ahead of,” the official added.

The State Department, in coordination with the Justice Department, is also offering rewards totaling up to $12 million for information leading to the arrests and/or convictions of three leaders of the Tren de Aragua.

CNN’s Rafael Romo, Belisa Morillo and Laura Weffer contributed to this report.

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