Seizures of cannabis shipments off the coast of Venezuela and its border with Colombia highlight the nation’s importance as a critical conduit for a particular strain of cannabis. Colombian hemp flood Latin American markets.
The Colombian National Police seized 2.5 tons of cannabis at the beginning of March, hidden in a truck loaded with plastic furniture and kitchen utensils. The confiscation took place in the municipality of Maicao, located in the border province of La Guajira, between Colombia and Venezuela. According to the Directorate for Narcotics Control (DIRAN) of the Colombian National Police, the seized shipment is planned for Venezuela and various countries in Central America.
In the following days, Venezuelan officials announced the discovery of 457 kilograms of hashish left on the Caribbean coast in Falcone state. This confiscation came after previous seizures that occurred in late 2022 in Venezuela, where one of the seizures on December 15 weighed more than 3.4 tons. Officials claimed that this was the largest marijuana seizure in the country in the past 10 years.
Between September and December 2022, various operations along the northern coast of Venezuela resulted in the seizure of approximately 7.6 tons of marijuana, including the last seizure. Media monitoring by InSight Crime and a report by Venezuela’s National Drug Control Authority (SUNAD) indicate that around 10 tons of marijuana were seized in Venezuela throughout 2022.
Independent reports and official sources indicate that since there is no significant large-scale cultivation of cannabis in Venezuela, most of the drugs seized and flowing through the country come from the northern mountains of Colombia’s western Cauca department.
Deep crime analysis
regional market Demand for Colombian marijuana produced, particularly the high-THC strain known as “creepy,” is fueling large seizures in Venezuela. The nation is a convenient transit point between Colombia and many other regional markets.
The fact that Venezuela has a history of being a drug corridor plays into the hands of marijuana dealers. It is a known cross-border cocaine smuggling route, and protects the involvement of senior political and military figures in drug trafficking. Those looking to export drugs abroad.
Moreover, Venezuela’s strategic location on the continent provides sea links to many Caribbean nations, land and river passages to Brazil and convenient routes to Central American countries.
The high-THC marijuana strain known as “creepy” is transported from Cauca on Colombian roads to major cities such as Cali, Medellín and Bogota. It is temporarily stored before being distributed to the various Colombian border departments, in particular Norte de Santander, Vichada and La Guajira.
Criminal networks looking to buy cannabis in Cauca must negotiate with the Western Coordination Command (CCO), a non-traditional faction of the previously active Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), also known as the ex-FARC mafia. This group dominates cannabis cultivation in the region.
After entering Venezuela, the hashish is transported to the states of Sucre, Falcon or Nueva Sparta, where it is loaded onto boats. Heading towards the Caribbean markets. In addition to being a gateway to Central and North American markets, Caribbean countries such as the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago have also reported Colombian nationals withholding large amounts of cannabis from Colombia.
InSight Crime spoke with an investigator, a local military officer, and a hunter who works near unofficial drop-off points in Falcon State, all of whom asked not to be identified for security reasons. According to them, the Camacaro Cartel is allowing drug shipments and controlling the boats in Falcone. The Camacaro Cartel, which has strong political connections, took over from the Paraguaná Cartel after its leader, Chiche Smith, was arrested. Meanwhile, in the southern regions, the three major criminal organizations in Brazil also obtained Colombian marijuana.
The two main Brazilian prison gangs, Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC and Red Command (Comando Vermelho – CV), transport cannabis across the Rio Negro Basin on the Colombian-Venezuelan border and then transport it to the north. Roraima State.
The Orinoco River is used by the Family of the North (Familia do Norte – FDN), a lesser-known gang operating in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. The gang transports hashish from the Colombian province of Vichada through the Amazonas department in Venezuela and into Brazil.
The Frente Acacio Medina, a faction of the former FARC mafia, oversees the cross-border corridor through Venezuela’s Amazonas state, which shares a border with Brazil. This group controls movement along the main corridors in the area. It is known to be one of the main links and distributors of the Brazilian mafiosi operating in the jungle area.
In addition to drug trafficking on a small scale Marijuana transportation networks in limited quantities The use of human carriers or special vehicles with concealed compartments traversing illegal border crossings, known as “trochas”. The marijuana is then stored in warehouses on Venezuelan soil before being transported by boat to the country’s Caribbean coast.
Although criminal organizations incur significant transportation costs moving drugs through Colombia and delivering them to Venezuela, the expenses far outweigh the enormous profits generated by this illegal trade. While a kilogram of “frightening” marijuana is valued at $42 in the Cauca Mountains, it can go as high as $2,800 in Brazil.
For organized crime groups operating in the region, illegal marijuana trafficking from Colombia to Venezuela and beyond has grown to be a significant source of revenue. The attraction of large profits and the strategic location of Venezuela continues to make it a hub for drug trafficking despite the efforts of law enforcement agencies to suppress this activity.
It has been difficult for law enforcement to keep up with the flow of drugs due to unauthorized border crossings, hidden compartments in private cars, and undersized shipments of marijuana along with oversized loads in boats and trucks. Moreover, the involvement of senior military and government figures in the drug trade has given the industry a measure of impunity for expansion.
A multifaceted strategy, involving governments, communities, individuals and law enforcement organizations, is necessary to combat drug trafficking in the region. Only by coming together can we have any chance of eliminating the negative effects of drug trafficking and ensuring a safer and more prosperous future for all.