A ship carrying some 110,000 gallons of contraband fuel, allegedly originating in Venezuela, was intercepted by Honduran naval forces, raising the question of whether a smuggling operation is indeed moving contraband fuel between the two countries.
As newspaper Proceso reports, the Honduran Navy intercepted the ship, named the "Island Lady," on February 16 in the Caribbean Sea near Guanaja Island, about 40 miles off the Honduran coast. The ship was reportedly carrying diesel and gasoline, both of which are cheap and abundant in Venezuela.
A Naval spokesperson said that the fuel was meant for an "important" person in Honduras, without providing further details. Nor did the security forces release the name of the owner of the ship. Authorities also said that the exact quantity of contraband fuel onboard the ship is not known at this time.
The 14 Honduran crew members were detained and are facing a pending investigation.
InSight Crime Analysis
It would be unsurprising if the fuel did turn out to originate in Venezuela, which has some of the cheapest fuel in the world, averaging nine cents per gallon of premium gasoline. One question is whether the fuel was actually transported from Venezuela to Honduras, over 1,000 miles of ocean. In spite of this long distance, arguably smugglers would still have the economic incentive to make the trip, given the low prices of fuel in Venezuela and the profits that the contraband product would bring in Honduras. This would especially hold true as the Honduran government just announced a hike in fuel prices.
Mexico is the traditional source of contraband fuel in Honduras. Last year, reports emerged stating that the Mexican Navy seized nearly 80,000 gallons of stolen diesel fuel belonging to the Zetas, destined for Honduras. Mexican criminal organizations are blamed for stealing thousands of gallons of gasoline per hour from state oil company Pemex, although it is unclear how much of this stolen fuel stays inside Mexico and how much is exported to other countries.