Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 2 MAY 2022

In 2013, Nicolás Maduro became president of Venezuela following the death of his charismatic predecessor Hugo Chávez. Since then, the country’s cocaine trade has undergone revolutionary changes. Today, Venezuela is at risk of becoming the world’s fourth cocaine-producing country. And the Maduro regime has positioned itself as the gatekeeper to the country’s drug trade, controlling access to cocaine’s riches not only for drug traffickers but also for corrupt politicians and the military-embedded trafficking network known as the “Cartel of the Suns.”

The product of more than three years of investigations, hundreds of interviews and field work in all of Venezuela’s key drug trafficking territories, this InSight Crime investigation looks at one of the world’s most important cocaine trafficking hubs – and the authoritarian regime that keeps the drugs flowing.

Chapter 1

Venezuela’s Move to Cocaine Production: Crops, Chemists and Criminal Evolution

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 2 MAY 2022

In October 2021, the Venezuelan Ministry of the Interior issued an ordinary looking statement about an antinarcotics operation in the state of Zulia that had extraordinary implications: the military had…

Chapter 2

Maduro Seeks to Regulate the Cocaine Trade

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 2 MAY 2022

In 2013, Nicolás Maduro became president of one of the world’s most important cocaine hubs, inheriting a unique drug trafficking eco-system where the line between the underworld and the state…

Chapter 3

Beyond the Cartel of the Suns

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 2 MAY 2022

In 2020, the US Department of Justice released a bombshell indictment charging sitting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and other senior members of his government with “narco-terrorism” and accusing them of…

Chapter 4

The Paraguaná Cartel: Drug Trafficking and Political Power in Venezuela

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 2 MAY 2022

On April 3, 2021, police in the east Venezuelan state of Anzoátegui acted on a tip-off to intercept a silver Toyota Corolla. They interrogated the driver, a middle-aged woman accompanied…

Chapter 5

Gordito González and Venezuela’s Narco-brokers

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 2 MAY 2022

In 2016, two adopted nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro were found guilty of a conspiracy to bring 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States.

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