Cocaine seized in Caracas

Venezuela announced it seized over 45 tons of drugs in 2012, although the nation is still believed to offer a favorable environment for cocaine traffickers, thanks to complicity from corrupt elements in the security forces and government.

On December 20, Interior and Justice Minister, Nestor Luis Reverol, released figures showing that in 2012, Venezuelan authorities seized more than 45 tons of narcotics, reported El Nacional. This marks an increase of roughly 3 tons on the amount seized in 2011.

A little over 60 percent (27.17 tons) of the total seized was cocaine, with the remainder being comprised predominantly of marijuana (39.58 percent).

Reverol added that 20 major drug traffickers had been arrested in the country throughout the year, bringing the total number of such detentions to 95 since 2006.

Among the most prominent of these were Colombian drug lords Daniel “El Loco” Barrera who was arrested in September, and Rastrojos leader Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo.” Both have since been extradited to Colombia.

Authorities also destroyed 36 clandestine landing strips for drug flights and seized 18 planes used for trafficking, reported AVN.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Venezuelan government will use these figures to show how it is making successful efforts in the war on drugs. The country was black-listed by the United States in September for failing “demonstrably ... to adhere to [its] obligations under international counter-narcotics agreements.”

A principal transit point for cocaine heading to Europe, Venezuela sees an estimated 200 tons of the drug pass through its territory annually according to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sources. Thus, while 2012’s seizure figures are impressive, they are tiny fraction of what could be the actual amount transiting though this Andean nation.

Aiding drug traffickers in the country are corrupt elements of the military known as the "Cartel of the Suns," (Cartel de los Soles). The loosely structured group is thought to be comprised of high-level officials within the army, navy and air force. For example, a former leader of Mexico's Beltran Leyva Organization declared in September that he was able to ship cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico with the help of Venezuelan generals.

In addition, while the capture of several top-level traffickers is promising, it also points to Venezuela's role as a refuge for powerful criminals. The arrest of El Loco Barrera was certainly a coup for the government, and highlighted its willingness to cooperate in multilateral efforts to detain drug lords; however, questions were raised as to how El Loco was able to remain in the country for so long without detection.

Crime has risen markedly in Venezuela under the administration of Hugo Chavez. Though one explanation could have to do with the regional dynamics of the drug trade, there is also a fear that government corruption and complicity could enable gangs to continue to flourish in Venezuela, meaning it will remain a key trafficking route for the foreseeable future.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.