On Wednesday, Mexican military officials said they seized five-and-a-half tons of powdered cocaine from a commercial aircraft that landed after a trip from Venezuela. The street value of the drugs was estimated to be upwards of $100 million.
Mexican cops reported that the cocaine was discovered inside over a hundred suitcases marked "private." The military officers announced that they made three arrests as a result of the cocaine seizure.
Mexican officials claim that cocaine is increasingly being imported from Venezuela, with the US or Europe being the drugs' final destination.
In this case the Mexican authorities waited for the plane to land at the airport of Ciudad de Carmen, about 550 miles east of Mexico City, after being tipped off by Interpol. The co-pilot of the aircraft was arrested. The pilot and co-pilot of another plane, which was believed to be ready to take the cocaine on to the next location, were also detained.
A Drug Enforcement Administration report last month indicted that Venezuela has become a key transshipment point for narcotics due to "rampant corruption at the highest levels of law enforcement and a weak judicial system". Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez terminated joint anti-drug operation with United States drug agents from the DEA. The paranoid president accused DEA agents of being spies.
The enormous amount of corruption within the Venezuelan government coupled with its president's seizure and control of the press has made the country ripe for the transit of illegal drugs and other contraband. No journalist in Venezuela who wants to remain out of prison or worse will report on the corruption, drug trade, crime or any other issue that would embarrass the Chavez government.
A prison riot that occurred in Venezuela this week highlights the systemic corruption that exists within their criminal justice system:
The riot left 10 inmates dead and one wounded the day after officers seized weapons and illegal drugs from gang members in the prison. Venezuela's prisons and jails are notoriously overcrowded and undersupervised. Firearms, illegal drugs and knives are often smuggled into prisons and sold to prisoners by guards.
As reported by the Associated Press, violence is common in the country's 30 prisons, which were built to house 15,000 inmates but house around 20,000. Over 280 inmates died in violence and at least 449 were injured during the first nine months of 2005, according to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, a human rights watchdog. For all of 2004, at least 327 inmates were killed and 655 were wounded, the group says.
Meanwhile, at least one metric ton of cocaine per month, and smaller quantities of heroin, are exported to consumers through the country's principal airport, several foreign counter-drug officials who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of their investigations told The Miami Herald.
One of the officials also estimated that as much as $2 million is paid out monthly in bribes to airport officials, policemen and National Guard personnel who collaborate with the drug runners. One informant told another investigator that airport jobs go to those willing to participate in the scheme.Counter-drug officials also say private airplanes that traffic drugs from Colombia to such nearby destinations as the Caribbean islands regularly pass through Maiquetia, landing there to get a change in identification numbers and perhaps a new paint job.
''The airport has been a problem, is a problem and will be a problem,'' one of the officials told The Miami Herald.Venezuela has clearly become a major transshipment point for illegal drugs leaving Colombia.
Estimates vary, but U.S. officials say the country could be a transit point for upward of 200 tons of cocaine per year -- half the estimated annual production in Colombia, the world's leading cocaine producer.Venezuela's own statistics showed an eight-fold increase in drug seizures since 1999.
Media reports have alleged the existence of drug smuggling cartels led by high-level National Guard officers. For their part, Venezuelan authorities have said the United States has no moral authority to comment on drug trafficking since it is the world's leading consumer of illegal drugs.
There are some who believe that the corruption goes directly into the office of President Hugo Chavez.
It is significant that the drugs came via Venezuela, because the Colombian army has long alleged that Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez, is sympathetic to the Marxist rIebels, according to Venzuelan political analyst Aleksander Boyd.
Boyd says, "Evidence, as is often the case with his 'revolution,' indicates that since
Chavez's arrival in power, Venezuela has become the favourite launching pad for Colombia's drug traffickers. It is argued that 80% of the cocaine produced in neighbouring Colombia and the region enters the international markets via Venezuela, as heretofore unseen quantities have been seized in various countries.
"On the other hand Chavez's cozy relationship with the FARC is no secret. So much so that the deranged president disrupted ties with Colombia, Venezuela's second largest commercial partner, over the capture in Caracas of FARC's leader Rodrigo Granda, who had Venezuelan citizenship, whose wife and step-daughter were welcomed by close associates of Chavez ... Rodriguez Chacin, and who was a guest of honor in one of his Bolivarian get-togethers."
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.