In the Peñarol neighborhood, a 19-year-old —almost a teenager— flaunts his new hair on social media. He had left that platinum blonde he had had for months. He dyed it brown and cut it down a bit. With a serious face but looking at the camera, he accompanied the photo of him on Instagram, in which he showed the change with a reggaeton song that was in fashion in May 2022. One that starts by saying: Versace tells her, will she be an angel or a devil? I don’t even have to talk normal, if money talks.
The change of hair that Agustín wore in the networks was not for aesthetic reasons. Hours before, he had killed a man who was in a club in his neighborhood for money. The victim had a drug debt and the young man – commissioned by another person – went to collect it. For this reason, Judge María Noel Odriozola sentenced him for homicide, especially aggravated by hit men, in a hearing that he witnessed. The Observer.
He put the gun to his neck and shot him point blank. But at that time for the police it went quite unnoticed. The problem was that the next day he entered a store and, to rob them, he shot the storekeeper and his wife. He died and she caused serious injuries. He had asked them for 100 grams of bologna, but when one of them turned around, he asked for the money. He struggled with the woman and ended up shooting them. He ran.
Hours later, the police arrested him at his mother’s house. When they told him that he was going to be taken into custody, Agustín was confused.
—Is it for this one or for the other one? He,” he asked the officers, who still didn’t have much of an account of who had killed the man at point-blank range in the club the day before.
Agustín, who is now 21 years old, was sentenced to 24 years in prison by Judge Odriozola, for three homicides, two consummated and one attempted. The first, aggravated by contract killings -it was commissioned-, the other two, aggravated for having been carried out to commit another crime, such as robbery.
It was that May when 33% of the annual homicides occurred in Peñarol, which in turn was the neighborhood with the most homicides in all of Montevideo in 2022. In addition to the two committed by Agustín, another five more were added. That May, in the corridors of the Montevideo Police Headquarters, the name of the auntie. A woman who came to break with the scheme of the five gangs that were in the neighborhood and that in 2021 had claimed eleven lives. Among those five, there were two of great preponderance and known for their violence (which, later, would only increase).
These were the Segales and the Vallejos, most of whose members are dead or in prison. For this reason, today the business of La Tita prevails, informed the former ministerial chief Gustavo Leal in a column that he published in La Diaria and was able to confirm The Observer. But the truth is that since they captured Mauro Segales —leader of the Segales gang— and murdered Roberto “Keto” Viana —who was part of that group— there have been no more homicides in the area, since the group led by the woman managed to prevail. Yes, there were three homicides in the neighboring neighborhood, Lavalleja.
“Los Segales and La Tita are shooting because they are at war over the sale of drugs,” said a witness with a confidential identity in the prosecutor’s office, the content of which was cited by prosecutor Alana Eccher in a court hearing in November of last year.
There is little information about La Tita —and what there is, the authorities prefer not to divulge— but the woman made her way through violence in the Peñarol neighborhood, when there were already other well-defined gangs running the business. She is linked to several murders, but for now she is free. Of course, when a homicide in the area has no explanation, the investigators write down her nickname in the margin of the sheet.
From May to November there were 17 homicides. Several of them chained, for being part of that bid for power, and whose responsibilities have yet to be fully elucidated.
The most relevant for the battle that seems to have had an end point -at least temporary- was the triple execution that took place in a field in August of last year. After the death of Mauro Segales’s father —whose link to the crime was never fully clarified—, he had to demonstrate that his gang had the power to continue prevailing and for this reason, together with Keto, they executed three vendors that the police suspect were working for La Tita.
A 27-year-old woman, nicknamed Beba, saw them and —according to La Diaria— went and told her in order to get something in return. But that sealed her fate: she got a slow and painful death.
Segales and Keto captured her around the end of October and took her to the house that the latter shared with his sister.
“Why did you have to tell them everything?” —They repeated to him while Keto put tape on his hands, mouth and feet, according to the Homicide prosecutor Alana Eccher in a judicial hearing whose record she agreed to The Observer. Meanwhile, Segales told him that he was giving him 10 minutes to speak.
Baby raised her hand. She was going to speak. But what she said left no choice but to settle the betrayal with death. It was she who had sold and had to pay for it. They tried to suffocate her, but since she didn’t die, they stuck a knife into her neck.
With a saw, they dismembered her and put her in nylon bags. Keto asked his sister to dispose of the body, which she agreed to, in exchange for a few doses of drugs. The woman left the bags in several storm drains. But five days later she came back to show her partner where she had left them, since she did not believe her. Someone who saw them watching the bags reported them to the police. Keto’s sister was convicted of a cover-up earlier this year.
Mauro Segales He fell for a homicide he committed by mistake. The police managed to jail him at the beginning of November for the murder of Facundo Castro, a barber who was assassinated when he was returning from work. Segales, together with Keto, intercepted him in the street and killed him, mistaking him for a relative. At that time, the drug lord should not have been on the street but in his house, because he was under total house arrest on a reception charge.
That same month, they killed Keto and left his body half buried in a field. A short time later, his brother’s appeared. Those homicides are still under investigation. According to La Diaria, Beba’s ex-partner put himself at Tita’s service to avenge her death and it was he who got rid of the men. Both Segales and Keto were targeted for the triple execution in August and the murder of Beba.
One of Mauro’s brothers, Damián, had been murdered in January 2022 and one of the Vallejos is accused of that crime. In the context of the long-standing conflict they had, this member of the Vallejo family drove past the Segales’ house when all the brothers were standing in front and shot, mortally wounding Damián, according to the record. in the hearing for the formalization of the crime whose record he agreed to The Observer. Another of the brothers had also been wounded.
That same day, Mauro Segales and another person fired shots at a passerby in the Peñarol neighborhood and then at a house, which they fired more than 10 shots at. When the police, hours later, were able to identify the car that the complainants had referred to, they saw Segales on the passenger side and the other defendant on the driver’s side. But the leader of the family clan tried to escape and at first succeeded, although he was later arrested.
When asked why, he said that he had only done it so he could go to the wake for his brother, who had been killed the day before. The criminal past of Mauro Segales has more than 10 pages of inquiries dating back to 2006 and 90% of those events occurred in Peñarol.
When the Homicide Prosecutor of 1er Turno had to allege the reasons why he understood that Vallejo, charged with the murder of Damián, should remain in prison, the second-in-command Natalia Pereira indicated that the father and uncle of one of the witnesses to the murder —who is also part of the gang of the Segales—had been killed in a double homicide.
“The Segales feel they are defenseless,” Pereira transmitted. Mauro is in prison and these two relatives were murdered.
“The imprisonment of Mr. Vallejo helps to control this bloodbath that is taking place in the Peñarol neighborhood,” added the head of that Prosecutor’s Office, Carlos Negro, in mid-February.
The political discussion about violence in Peñarol
With the presence of the Minister of the Interior, Luis Alberto Heber, and the Secretary of the Presidency, Álvaro Delgado, the government installed 168 cameras in the Peñarol neighborhood on December 28 of last year.
As a result of the number of homicides that took place in the first days of May —several of them in the Peñarol neighborhood— Heber met urgently with the president, Luis Lacalle Pou, seeking to present him with a plan to contain them. At that time, it was decided to increase patrols and take other measures that were never publicly disclosed.
The director of Coexistence and Citizen Security, Santiago González, indicated in early November that the ministry is confronting complex criminal gangs that live “on death and drugs.” In an interview with Radio Montecarlo, he stated: “We are convinced that we are going to confront these kinds of gangs and that we have to liquidate them one by one.” Although there are times when the conflict calms down, when confrontations break out, there are “many bloody events.”
“We will continue working so that the people of Peñarol can live in peace, in a beautiful neighborhood that deserves peace,” he closed at the time.