The US Treasury Department has added a former Venezuelan army captain to its list of Specially Designated Drug Traffickers, further proof of the importance of the Venezuelan military to international drug trafficking.
According to the Treasury, Vassyly Kotosky Villarroel Ramirez facilitated the movement of tons of cocaine and drug trafficking profits using various airports, seaports, and official Venezuelan government vehicles.
Villarroel is accused of providing security and protection for cocaine shipments for renowned drug traffickers including Daniel "El Loco" Barrera, and former Rastrojos leader Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias, "Comba," and of handling drugs destined for Mexican cartels including the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas, and the Beltran Leyva Organization
The director of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Adam Szubin, said "Villarroel Ramirez is a prime example of a narcotics trafficker who exploited his former military position and connections to facilitate the transport of cocaine to Mexico and profit from the sales that followed."
InSight Crime Analysis
The sanctioning of Villarroel highlights the central role of the Venezuelan military in facilitating drug trafficking through what is now one of the main routes leaving Colombia. This corruption may go all the way to the top of the organization, with the drug trafficking network of the high-ranking military personnel, the Cartel of the Suns.
SEE ALSO: Cartel of the Suns Profile
The center of Villarroel's operations was Maiquetia airport -- the country's biggest international airport, which lies just outside capital city Caracas, showing how trafficking in Venezuela is not limited to using hidden airstrips, or coastal ports.
The case demonstrates how military personnel are at the hub of many connections between Colombian traffickers such as El Loco Barrera and Comba, who operated in Colombia's eastern border region, and the Mexican buyers of their product. Both Barrera and Comba are now imprisoned but the region continues to be a trafficking hotspot, and whoever steps into their place will also be looking to capitalize on corruption in the Venezuelan army.