Venezuela, a country in complete dismay, is wrought with corruption at its highest levels of military and government. Further, the country’s military and political elite are playing a significant role in trafficking cocaine to the United States.
While much of the cocaine passed through Venezuela is grown in Colombia, an in-depth investigation has revealed that much of that drug is then flown from Venezuela to countries that neighbor the United States.
According to Officials familiar with the matter, previously the drugs were flown from remote regions in Venezuela; however, now, the drugs are exported from the more developed northwest region to reduce their flying time, US and regional officials have said.
“Drug smugglers are more and more exploiting the complicity of Venezuelan authorities, and more recently the vacuum of power,” said one US official.
A large portion of the profits from drug smuggling, go to complicit actors within the governmental agencies from which those drugs pass.
A confidential 2018 US radar map of the plane routes seen by CNN shows their departure from northwestern Venezuela’s Zulia region, their passage north to the Caribbean, and then their sharp turn West toward their destinations in the remote farmlands of Guatemala, on the Honduran coastline, and some in the Caribbean. From there, the drugs are shipped up to Mexico and then distributed to American cities.
According to a U.S. Official, in 2018 alone, it is estimated that nearly 265 tons of cocaine crossed into Venezuela from Colombia, to be flown to the coastlines. However, other officials familiar with the matter, claim that the aforementioned estimate is conservative.
Further, 265 tons of pure, Colombian cocaine could net nearly thirty-nine billion dollars in profit on the streets of the United States.
The United States has, for years, accused high-ranking members within the Venezuelan government of complicity in regards to trafficking cocaine. However, as Venezuela has systemically collapsed, the need for cash has grown exponentially.
Colombian officials who can rarely be quoted on the record also stated that the drug smuggling has recently involved Colombian leftist guerrilla group ELN who is working with the Maduro military.
In 2018, Diosdado Cabello, the leader of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly and embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s number two, was also sanctioned for being “directly involved in narcotics trafficking activities.” However, the accused claims that there is no evidence and said in response stated; “If there are persecuted politicians, those are the Venezuelan officials sanctioned by the US. You can keep your sanctions.”
Drug flights from Venezuela to countries closer to the United States have increased from twice weekly to nearly daily, and as the operation has grown, now use roughly 50 clandestine runways in the northwestern region of Zulia in Venezuela.