Venezuela Coastal State Could Be Hot New Drug Trafficking Route

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Venezuelan authorities seized six major drug shipments during the month of November in the eastern state of Anzoátegui, potentially indicating an increase in drug flow through the coastal area due to gangs seeking alternate routes to export substances coming from Colombia.

On November 25, agents seized 1,020 kilograms of cocaine and arrested five people, including three Colombians. “927 packages were transported in a truck, from the city of Machiques in the state of Zulia to the Caribbean islands, with their final destination being the United States,” said official Jhonny Salazar, according to a statement from the National Anti-Drug Office, as reported by the newspaper Panorama.

Four days prior, the Anzoátegui state police reported the seizure of 236 packages of marijuana, hidden in a passenger bus traveling between Caracas and Carúpano, in the state of Sucre. The three staff on board the vehicle were arrested.

The third seizure of 839 packages of marijuana and 62 of cocaine was made on November 10, also in Anzoátegui. The Bolivarian National Guard (Guardia Nacional Boliviariana — GNB) detained two men, including a retired army sergeant, transporting the drugs in the Moja Casabe area of the municipality of Miranda.

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In mid-November, Admiral William Serantes Pinto, commander of the Eastern Integral Defense Strategic Region (Redior), which covers Anzoátegui, reported a fourth seizure and that three blows were dealt to drug trafficking efforts in less than ten days. He added that more than two tons of drugs had been seized in the state in 2018 so far.

Additionally, police sources revealed to InSight Crime that during November 2018, at least one more ton of drugs had passed through Anzoátegui in two other drug trafficking operations, which the authorities were unable to prevent.

InSight Crime Analysis

The coastal nature of Anzoátegui state is likely to have caught the interest of drug trafficking organizations, which may be searching for new routes to ship out the large quantities of drugs being produced in Colombia and sent to Venezuela.

In this context, the director of the National Anti-Drug Office, José Grillo, reported that seizures in Anzoátegui have increased 67 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. Furthermore, anti-narcotics authorities are all too aware that not all drugs passing through the state of Anzoátegui and through eastern Venezuela, in general, are being seized.

A police official told InSight Crime that traffickers also favor using the state’s roads due to the lack of surveillance in some rural areas.

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On the other hand, these seizures also coincide with the discovery of clandestine airstrips in November in a rural area of Guárico state (bordering Anzoátegui and Apure) and the seizure of two aircraft. This suggests a network that includes air connections air, with the aim of sending drugs from Colombia to Caribbean islands and on to the rest of the globe, including Honduras and Mexico, as authorities have specified.

Sources within the scientific police consulted by InSight Crime also revealed an investigation into GNB officials aiding drug trafficking operations in Anzoátegui. Evidence points to certain controls being avoided on key shipments, or bribes being paid to soldiers for routes to be cleared for drug transports.

Finally, it should be remembered that Anzoátegui is one of the states where the presence of the National Liberation Army (Ejército Nacional de Liberación – ELN) of Colombia has recently been detected.

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