Colombia Authorities Have ‘Institutionalized Contraband’: Venezuela diplomat

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A Venezuelan official has asserted Colombian authorities are responsible for rampant cross border smuggling, yet this finger-pointing ignores the dynamics of this illicit trade, much of which lie firmly on the Venezuelan side.

On September 3, Venezuelan Chancellor Delcy Rodriguez lashed out at her Colombian counterpart Maria Angela Holguin over the ongoing border crisis between their two nations, asserting in a message posted to her Twitter account that the cross border contraband trade “has been institutionalized by Colombian authorities.”

The message was part of a series of Tweets responding to criticisms by Holguin of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his handling of border closures in the state of Tachira.

Previously, during a meeting between the two chancellors in Cartagena on August 26, Holguin said price differences created by subsidized goods and gasoline in Venezuela “makes it very difficult to control contraband,” reported El Espectador.

“It’s unbelievable, to say the least, that (Holguin) uses Venezuela’s policy of subsidization to hide the responsibility of Colombia in the fight against contraband,” retorted Rodriguez.

InSight Crime Analysis

Blame for the contraband trade between Venezuela and Colombia can be placed on both sides of the border.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Contraband

It is undeniable Venezuelan price controls on basic foodstuffs and gasoline has encouraged smuggling of such goods into Colombia, where they fetch much higher prices. However, criminal networks in Colombia — such as neo-paramilitary groups known as BACRIM (short for the Spanish “criminal bands”) — have propagated the contraband trade, earning profits by charging a “tax” on smuggled Venezuelan goods.

Additionally, cocaine flowing into Venezuela from Colombia — along with contraband moving in the opposite direction — have had a corrupting influence on each country’s border officials, facilitating illicit traffic moving in both directions. For instance, there are rumors this border crisis was set off by a clash between the Venezuelan military and National Guard over the drug trade.

Nonetheless, as long as artificial price differences exist between the two countries, the cross border contraband trade will continue to flourish.

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