Just Before Carnival, Colombia Police Seize Contraband Booze

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    Colombia police seized over $400,000 worth of contraband liquor smuggled from Venezuela, reportedly intended to keep revellers tipsy during the Barranquilla Carnival.

    Police found 1,500 boxes of contraband liquor hidden in a truck traveling from the western border city Cucuta, according to El Espectador. The find included over 15,000 bottles of wine, tequila, gin, rum and whiskey, apparently en route to Barranquilla, which hosts one of the world’s largest carnival celebrations in February.

    InSight Crime Analysis

    Colombia has a thriving illicit liquor trade, with over 40,000 contraband bottles seized last year. Away from the border regions, the liquor trade typically involves groups selling diluting booze or other bootleg versions of popular alcohol brands.

    But much of the trade is concentrated in border cities like Cucuta, where many families make a living from smuggling all kinds of untaxed goods. Because such small-time smuggling supports so many communities, authorities are reluctant to crack down on the activity and anger local residents. Additionally, officers in Colombia’s border police accept bribes from contraband smugglers as part of the job.

    Because the price of some basic goods, including alcohol, is lower in Venezuela than in Colombia, this also gives plenty of incentives to contraband runners.

    The more profitable smuggling networks along the Venezuela-Colombia involve gasoline, drugs and automobiles. These are the networks traditionally controlled by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and their criminal heirs the BACRIMs.

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