HomeNewsBriefColombia Fights Fuel Smuggling with Armed Helicopters
BRIEF

Colombia Fights Fuel Smuggling with Armed Helicopters

COLOMBIA / 29 MAY 2015 BY KYRA GURNEY EN

Authorities in Colombia have reportedly started using armed helicopters to stop gasoline smugglers crossing the border from Venezuela, an aggressive measure that underscores both the seriousness of the problem and the difficulties that security forces face in combatting it.

In a May 28 operation in Colombia's northeastern Cesar province, police, military, and customs officials employed two helicopters armed with machine guns to stop a convoy of 18 gasoline trucks, reported El Tiempo. Security forces placed barricades on a road near the Colombia-Venezuela border so that police could detain the smugglers with support from the air.

Security forces captured 19 individuals and seized over 33,000 gallons of fuel. However, as police transported the detainees to a nearby city, they were attacked by locals wielding rocks and sticks and had to call in the riot police.

The operation was the third this week targeting Colombia's lucrative contraband gasoline trade. In the first two operations, authorities arrested 15 smugglers and seized 13 vehicles and over 36,000 gallons of fuel. 

On the other side of the border, in Venezuela, security forces have seized more than 317,000 gallons of gasoline in Zulia state so far this year, reported El Siglo. Venezuelan authorities are also attempting to control gasoline sales through the installation of electronic chips on vehicles.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Contraband

InSight Crime Analysis

The use of helicopters armed with machine guns to combat the contraband gasoline trade is an example of the extreme measures security forces have had to employ in order to stop smugglers.

In the Colombia-Venezuela border region, gasoline smugglers typically travel in convoys known as "caravans of death" because of the speed and recklessness with which they drive (see video below). Armed escorts often accompany the convoys to protect them from security forces, and the drivers usually only stop if they crash.

In addition, locals who are financially dependent on the contraband trade also protect the "caravans of death," fighting with police when they detain smugglers, as illustrated by the recent operation.

The profits on offer in the illegal fuel trade -- due to the discrepancy in gasoline prices between Venezuela and Colombia -- have attracted narco-paramilitary groups known as BACRIM, in addition to the contraband families who have traditionally run the trade, and corrupted local politicians. Indeed, one of the major gasoline smuggling operations in the border region was allegedly run by the former governor of Colombia's northeastern La Guajira province, Francisco "Kiko" Gomez, who was arrested in October 2013.  

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

EL KOKI / 22 FEB 2021

Recent shootouts between security forces and Venezuela's El Coqui gang included a clash in which at least two dozen people…

COLOMBIA / 7 OCT 2016

The awarding of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos adds a new, potentially game-changing element…

COLOMBIA / 6 JUL 2016

A multi-year investigation has revealed that up to 70 percent of mining in Colombia is illegal, a statistic that brings…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…