Bogotá shocked by macabre gang murders

More than 2,000 police officers participate in the El Bronx operative. Photo:Carlos Bernate.
More than 2,000 police officers participate in the El Bronx operative. Photo:Carlos Bernate

Just hours after Bogotá Mayor Claudia López announced the capture of 10 members of a criminal gang known as ‘Los Maracuchos’ and responsible for at least five murders committed this year in the Colombian capital, and whose victims were dismembered in plastic bags, on Tuesday morning, police officers found another body inside a plastic bag in the locality of Bosa. The most recent case of dismemberment raises the total number of victims over the last eight months to 29.

Among those captured during Operation Job is the gang’s ringleader, alias “Leo.”  The crime syndicate whose name references the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo consists of both Venezuelan and Colombian citizens. According to Mayor López, Los Maracuchos is one of nine criminal organizations operating in the Colombian capital and engaged in a turf war to control the micro-trafficking trade in illicit drugs.

“Along with these 10 arrests, we seized phones, weapons, drugs and other items that will allow us to continue the investigation,” claimed López. The other transnational gang committing violent acts in Bogotá, and responsible for leaving a trail of victims inside plastic bags, is Tren de Aragua. The Venezuela-based Tren de Aragua recruits dangerous criminals from the country’s prison system.

Mayor López confirmed that Interpol has issued a blue alert for the arrest of five other members of Los Maracuchos who are believed to be operating inside Venezuela. During the operation in the locality of Los Mártires, the police raided seven buildings including a hotel used as a central drugs distribution point.

On Saturday, the bodies of three women were found near dumpsters in Bogotá, all showing signs of torture, asphyxiation and bullet wounds. The discovery by crime scene investigators marks one of the most gruesome episodes of the “trash bag murders” and yet another shock to the city’s nine million residents of a sadistic trend in gang-related killings.

Over the same weekend, National Police Chief Henry Sanabria confirmed the existence of “chop houses” in Bogotá where the victims of these criminal groups are dismembered before being discarded in public parks and on city streets. Authorities identified one address in Bogotá’s Chapinero locality (Ave Caracas with Calle 65) used to transport at least four victims in plastic bags.

Even though the Mayoralty has denied the existence of “chop houses” in Bogotá, the Metropolitan police has evidence of four establishments where rope, body bags and sharp objects used for human mutilation have been found, as well as evidence of human blood on walls.

A massive security operation, in May, 2016, during the administration of Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, took back the El Bronx neighborhood from control of another dangerous microtrafficking gang Los Sayayines. During the “Seige of El Bronx” and largest police offensive in Bogotá’s history, special undercover agents of the DIJIN  located at least one “chop house” near the historic center of Bogotá used to disappear persons.