A Honduran naval vessel

Honduras is losing $230 million per year in revenues because of fuel smuggling, a practice driven by criminal groups capitalizing on Venezuela's fuel subsidies.

According to Honduran Minister of Industry and Trade Adonis Lavaire, illegally imported fuel costs the country the equivalent of ten percent of its annual fuel imports, which he said stand at $2.3 billion, reported El Heraldo

On September 26, the Honduran navy reported capturing a boat carrying 40,000 gallons of illegal fuel headed for the Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Castilla, having apparently departed from the island of Curacao.

The haul takes Honduras' total illegal fuel recoveries to 190,000 gallons in less than a week, after a ship originating in Venezuela was captured off the country's Caribbean island of Roatan carrying 150,000 gallons.

According to Proceso, the fuel originates in Venezuela, where it is produced and where government subsidies make it lucrative for criminal bands to smuggle the product to other countries.

InSight Crime Analysis

As reported by Proceso, Honduras has been particularly vulnerable to fuel smuggling since the 2009 ousting of former President Manuel Zelaya, which saw the country suspended from Petrocaribe -- an alliance between Venezuela and various Caribbean nations which provides members with subsidized Venezuelan fuel.  Large hauls of illegal fuel have already been recovered this year and while in August it was reported that Honduras would begin receiving subsidized fuel again in September, as Proceso reports, so far none has arrived.

This leaves Honduras open to organized criminal groups importing cheap fuel, with Proceso reporting that they also tamper with the product so that vehicles and machinery end up damaged. Mexico is also an important point of origin for illegal fuel destined for Honduras and Mexican cartels are known to be involved in the activity.

Venezuela has a particular problem with fuel theft, something which it pledged to combat this year, however with contraband fuel pouring over the border into Colombia, as well as out to sea, and with corruption deeply ingrained in Venezuelan security forces, how it will effectively address the situation remains unclear.

Investigations

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