Venezuela Blames Sinaloa Cartel for Air France Cocaine Shipment

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Officials in Venezuela have claimed that last year’s record cocaine seizure from an Air France flight out of Caracas belonged to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, in a statement that — whether accurate or not — appears designed to deflect attention away from the Venezuelan security forces.

In his testimony to the special congressional committee set up to investigate last year’s Air France trafficking scandal, former Venezuelan anti-drugs chief Brigadier General Alejandro Kerelis said the 1.3 ton cocaine shipment was sent by Sinaloa operatives trying out a new route to Europe, reported El Nacional.

After nearly a year of investigations, the commission has yet to produce a report. One of its members, Ricardo Sanchez, said the body is currently examining two theories, according to El Universal. The first is that the drugs were seized as part of an undercover operation, the second is that the seizure is a “false positive” — in the sense that the drugs existed but never passed through Venezuela. According to Sanchez, they have received no evidence proving the drugs came off the flight from Venezuela.

According to El Universal, Venezuelan investigators in the case complained the process had been hampered by a lack of information from French officials, who, they claimed, have offered no details on the luggage used or how the shipment was discovered and seized.

InSight Crime Analysis

The claim that a Mexican cartel was behind the now-notorious September 2013 Air France shipment is certainly plausible.

In the past, Colombian traffickers controlled routes through Venezuela, paying off corrupt Venezuelan security officials along the way. However, those corrupt officials began organizing their own networks to take a bigger cut of profits, becoming what is popularly known as the Cartel de los Soles (Cartel of the Suns), a drug trafficking network of powerful high-ranking military officials. There is evidence to suggest that part of this process involved reaching out to Mexican groups.

SEE ALSO: Cartel of the Suns Profile

However, accurate or not, blaming the shipment on the arguably the biggest and certainly the most famous Latin American drug trafficking operation of them all, the Sinaloa Cartel, makes for a convenient distraction from the role of Venezuela’s military, which manages airport security, and the Cartel of the Suns.

The theories expressed by the commission also suggest obfuscation. The idea that the drugs did not come from Venezuela is not credible — not only would this involve remarkable dishonesty from the French officials, it would also ignore evidence the commission has examined, which included x-rays of the packages taken in Venezuela.

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