HomeNewsBriefVenezuela Politicians Accuse Military of Involvement in Contraband Mineral Trade
BRIEF

Venezuela Politicians Accuse Military of Involvement in Contraband Mineral Trade

ILLEGAL MINING / 15 JAN 2018 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Two congressmen in Venezuela allege that members of the armed forces play a central role in the country’s contraband mineral trade, yet another example of how the government is turning a blind eye to security force involvement in a range of illicit activities that are contributing to an ongoing economic, political and security crisis.

In a January 15 interview with El Nacional, congressman Américo de Grazia said, “There is no coltan, gold or diamond operation that the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana — FANB) do not control, so the contraband of minerals is sponsored, orchestrated and executed by members of the FANB.”

This isn’t the first time that de Grazia has accused the military of involvement in illegal mining. In March 2016, the opposition politician alleged that members of the armed forces were exploiting the illicit industry for their own benefit.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mining

Organized crime groups have historically dominated much of Venezuela’s illegal mining trade. But according to de Grazia, the military controls the locations where the minerals are illegally extracted and the routes utilized to export them, thus facilitating these operations.

According to El Nacional, the government’s December 2017 approval of mining operations on 112,000 square kilometers in the states of Bolívar, Amazonas and Delta Amacuro further deepened criminality, including among the armed forces.

“In Bolívar [state], crimes and massacres in mining areas have greatly increased, and it is now common to observe them more and more frequently with the active participation of state security forces,” congressman Jorge Millán, of the National Assembly’s mining committee, told El Nacional.

Indeed, as InSight Crime previously reported, a wave of killings in various illegal mining zones throughout Venezuela in 2017 sparked questions about the role of security forces in the illicit industry. Despite the allegations, however, Millán told El Nacional that the government has done nothing to stop those involved.

InSight Crime Analysis

Allegations of the military’s involvement in Venezuela’s contraband mineral trade highlight another instance in which the administration of President Nicolás Maduro has turned a blind eye to alleged criminal activities on the part of security forces.

Members of Venezuela’s military are no stranger to criminality. The security apparatus has long been accused of profiting from illegal gold mining in the country by supporting and providing weapons to criminal groups in exchange for a cut of the profits. Security forces have also been implicated in trafficking contraband food and fuel, as well as other key supplies in the shortage-ravaged country.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles

Venezuela’s deepening economic crisis is largely to blame for security forces’ increased involvement in criminal activities. According to the Venezuelan organization Control Ciudadano, the highest paid member of Venezuela’s military earns just over 4 million Bolivars (less than $50) per month. Lucrative criminal activities are all the more attractive for security forces struggling to get by.

Moreover, the Maduro administration has taken little action to address the issue. As an important pillar of support for his administration, Maduro has an interest in turning a blind eye to the military’s criminal activities in order to maintain the institution’s support.

As InSight Crime previously reported, the ongoing crisis in Venezuela bodes well for organized crime groups. And as security forces become increasingly involved in criminal activities — with little accountability — the situation is likely to continue to deteriorate.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

PRISONS / 11 JAN 2012

The taking of at least eight police hostage in a jail in western Venezuela is the sixth incident in which…

COUNTERFEIT / 3 DEC 2014

Police in Peru have disbanded a criminal organization that manufactured counterfeit dollars for markets in Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and the…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 9 SEP 2011

The Venezuelan government has distanced itself from Colombia's FARC rebels in recent months, but its response to the U.S.'s naming…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…