Progressively, armed groups of various kinds have been taking control over the population and territory in Venezuela. Under the title The dominance of criminal gangs: a reality that exists in various regions of Venezuela (in Spanish only), a recent report by the El Pitazo news portal carried out a partial survey on the presence of criminal gangs in 12 states of the country, estimating that at least 19 mega-gangs and some 18,000 bands exist in Venezuelan territory.
The mega-gangs’ ability to control population and territory increased after the creation of the so-called peace zones in 2013 by the government. Since then, this control includes extortions to merchants and residents, recruitment of young people for their criminal groups, forced imposition of their authority over the population, control of public services and access to food, among others.
El Pitazo’s report also makes it clear how the activity of these organized crime groups affects other sectors, beyond their immediate area of influence, such as the tourism, agriculture, and fishing sectors in various areas of the country.
Another effect of the control of mega gangs is internal displacement. Although there are no records on the magnitude of the problem, it is known that many families have moved from their usual place of residence, due to the fear that their adolescent children will be forcibly recruited by these organizations.