A newly released report has shown a shocking account of Venezuela’s illicit drug trade and how the military’s role in the trade continues to increase.
The report by drug czar and former judge Mildred Camero is one of many studies that seek to offer an insight into organised crime in the country.
According to Camero, at the start of the drug trade, it was mostly civilians trafficking drugs in small quantities. Most of them were youth from poor backgrounds who were looking for a quick way to earn money. In most cases, these youth would be under the leadership of a Venezuelan or Colombian who had connections in Colombia.
Security forces were never directly involved. They only took bribes to allow drugs to cross the border. In fact, the little involvement was only confined to the National Guard’s junior officers. In the early 2000’s the borders were manned by the National Guard.
Everything changed in 2005 after illegal trafficking laws were changed. In the new laws, military institutions were given sweeping powers to investigate drug-related crimes. These changes laid the foundation for the formation of criminal networks that had their roots in the top ranks of Venezuela’s military.
According to the report, civilian groups are still involved in small scale narcotics distribution. These groups have formed their own criminal structures and use ideological facades to hide their operations. Their urban territories are well defined. Nonetheless, it is the military that controls cross-border drug smuggling and processing of raw materials.
The dynamics in neighbouring Colombia have also played a part in fuelling the drug trade. A good example is the increased production of coca, cocaine’s which is used in making cocaine.
The current political and economic crisis in Venezuela, which has led to basic goods shortages has made the situation even worse as desperate people resort to illicit activities. Venezuelans are now seeing crime as an option to survive as their problems mount and mount.