Venezuela’s National Guard found more than 5 tons of marijuana hidden in a fuel tanker in the border state of Tachira, an area with high levels of contraband flow into and out of neighboring Colombia.
The tanker had a concealed bottom section where the drugs were stashed, according to Venezuela’s Interior and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol, who made the announcement on his Twitter page on February 24.
The National Guard found the cache during a search at a checkpoint in Ureña, a town on the Colombian border. The tanker had come from Colombia, according to the Venezuelan government’s statement.
One person was detained.
InSight Crime Analysis
During the whole of 2012 around 18 tons of marjuana were seized in Venezuela, so the discovery of 5 tons in just one operation makes this a significant seizure.
That the cache should be discovered in the Colombia-Venezuela border region is no surprise, given the area’s extremely high levels of contraband flow in both directions, aided by weak law enforcement. Large quantities of Venezuelan gasoline travel from Tachira and Zulia states into Colombia on a daily basis, alongside other merchandise. Small-time smugglers are extorted by large gangs for the right to operate, with Colombian drug gang the Rastrojos believed to be the major criminal force in Venezuela’s Zulia state.
Meanwhile the Rastrojos, and other Colombian criminal organizations, send vast amounts of cocaine and marijuana to Venezuela. The country is the principal transshipment point for Colombian drugs going to the United States and Europe, with US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sources estimating that around 200 tons of cocaine passes annually through Venezuela. Though Venezuelan authorities seized more than 45 tons of narcotics last year, the country was blacklisted by the United States for “failing…demonstrably to adhere to [its] obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.”
In Colombia, the Pacific coast province of Cauca has become the center of marijuana production, and an extra-strong strain developed in recent years has brought in increasing profits for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The FARC have also become the main dealers of marijuana within the country.