Venezuela Seizes 20 Tons of Liquid Cocaine

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Venezuelan authorities have seized 20 tons of liquid cocaine bound for Mexico, highlighting the increasing popularity of smuggling the drug in liquid form.

On June 26 Venezuelan security forces detected liquid cocaine in four shipping containers carrying a chemical substance on a ship docked in the northwestern state of Zulia, along the Colombian border. The ship was bound for the port of Veracruz, Mexico.

Three people, including a Colombian national, were arrested in connection with the shipment. Interior and Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami described the seizure as “one of the largest operations we’ve ever had in the history of Venezuela [and a] blow to drug trafficking,” although he said the purity of the shipment had not yet been tested.

He also indicated law enforcement was conducting “other raids” in connection with the confiscated shipment.

InSight Crime Analysis

Drug traffickers are constantly evolving and inventing new ways of avoiding detection as they move their product across borders. One of the most popular methods of smuggling cocaine in recent years has been to camouflage it in liquid form (see picture).

According to Infosurhoy, powder cocaine is highly soluble, meaning half a kilogram can be completely dissolved in a liter of water, making it invisible to the naked eye. The dissolved cocaine is more difficult to detect using x-ray or ultrasound scanners. When it reaches its final destination, 90 percent of the product can then be retrieved and converted into its original state by filtering the mixture.

Due to the fact liquid cocaine can be easily concealed, traffickers have increasingly moved the drug in its liquid form. One Colombian official confirmed the trend to Infosurhoy, saying,“Trafficking methods are like fads: What is hot today is [smuggling] cocaine in a solution.”

In April 2011, authorities uncovered a smuggling ring that moved cocaine hidden in lotions and shampoos between Peru and New Jersey. Then last July, the Panamanian navy seized more than three tons of liquid cocaine on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Last week, an El Salvadoran man was arrested crossing the Mexican border into the United States carrying 71 pounds of liquid cocaine, worth an estimated $710,000.

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