HomeNewsBriefBronze Smuggling Leaves Venezuela's Cemeteries Without Headstones
BRIEF

Bronze Smuggling Leaves Venezuela's Cemeteries Without Headstones

CONTRABAND / 7 MAR 2019 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

A recent investigation into the theft and smuggling of bronze in Venezuela has revealed the existence of an organized crime network, dismantling Venezuelan artistic heritage in order to send bronze contraband to Caribbean islands.

Plaques identifying tombs in Venezuelan cemeteries as well as hundreds of bronze sculptures have disappeared in at least 12 states. An investigation carried out over two years by a team from Institutional Assets and Monuments of Venezuela (IAM Venezuela) determined that 6,812 pieces, equivalent to 297 tons of bronze, have been systematically stolen and sold to Colombia, the Caribbean and even Asia.

According to this study, Venezuelan bronze trafficking represents profits of millions of dollars for the criminal groups involved.

The illicit trafficking of bronze verified by IAM Venezuela showed that the west of the country is the most affected region, both due to being rich in monuments and located close to the Colombian border.

"Those who traffic illicitly in metals prefer the bustling Colombian city of Cúcuta, where they sell a kilogram of molten bronze at around $6," according to Anderson Jaimes, director of research at the San Cristóbal Museum in Táchira state.

The work details that the criminals send the bronze from Venezuela to Colombia at the border, to the Dutch territories Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao from the state of Falcón, and to Trinidad and Tobago from the eastern and southern regions of Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago.

InSight Crime Analysis

Organized crime groups have regularly explored new criminal markets in Venezuela. The smuggling of bronze has consolidated itself into a transnational economy, which Venezuelan authorities have seemingly no interest in stopping.

The researchers from IAM Venezuela, consulted by InSight Crime, do not rule out complicity from authorities in allowing the theft and looting of bronze from cemeteries and beyond, as well as its subsequent sale.

One case, the theft of two bronze doors weighing around 1,000 kilograms from a bank in Zulia state, stood out to them as not having been doable without security agencies having allowed it.

SEE ALSO: 7 Reasons for Describing Venezuela as a 'Mafia State'

Milagros González, one of the coordinators of the investigation, also warns that while their findings all indicated the involvement of organized mafia behind bronze theft, security agencies provided no official data for the report.

"IAM Venezuela has documented bronze theft for the last two years, and has kept highly detailed records for the last year. We hope this research will help curb this crime...as it is destroying Venezuela's symbols," González explained to InSight Crime.

Another IAM Venezuela investigator, journalist Nilda Silva, said that "the lack of a proper cultural protection policy has led to impunity."

"We have denounced the theft of plaques and busts in states such as Mérida and Barinas but there has never been any government action. The number of thefts has risen...but there are no open investigations, nor are there any detainees. Venezuela has become an open bronze mine," she told InSight Crime.

Bronze is only the latest product to be added to the long list of various items smuggled out of Venezuela by organized crime organizations acting with virtual impunity. It joins other merchandise such as gold, copper, coltan, fuel, cattle and weapons, which organized crime networks draw from Venezuelan territory and sell to Colombia, the Caribbean and abroad.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BOLIVIA / 14 SEP 2017

In an annual designation of major drug trafficking and producing nations, US President Donald Trump broke with decades of…

VENEZUELA / 16 MAR 2012

Venezuela's defense minister announced plans to post 15,000 troops to fight drug trafficking and armed groups on the borders with…

COCAINE / 8 NOV 2018

A new study from Transparency Venezuela says that the country’s weak criminal justice system, made worse by the government’s cooptation…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…