Four members of Venezuela’s National Guard and a prominent businessman have been arrested for allegedly smuggling cocaine in a jet plane to the Dominican Republic, highlighting the popularity of this drug trafficking route, as well as Venezuela's unfortunate tendency to only investigate low-ranking military figures.
Venezuela’s National Guard (GNB) arrested Juan Carlos Araujo Duran -- president of a corporate marketing and event management company -- in Caracas on March 30, as part of a probe into a drug smuggling ring, reported El Nacional. A first sergeant of the GNB was also detained at the Charallave international airport in Miranda state.
The investigation involves a 450-kilo shipment of cocaine flown in a private jet from Venezuela to the Dominican Republic on March 17, where it was seized by anti-drug agents in that country.
A total of 11 people have been detained so far, including two other sergeants and a lieutenant of the GNB, who had been assigned to the Charavalle airport anti-drug unit.
The private jet plane's five passengers -- all Venezuelan nationals -- remain in custody in the Dominican Republic. Another four members of the Dominican military are under investigation in relation to the case.
Araujo’s company -- active since 1996 -- has offices in 14 cities throughout Venezuela, and its client list once included Pepsi and Herbalife. The company is also known for organizing concerts for famous Latin American musicians in Venezuela.
InSight Crime Analysis
This ongoing probe is a welcome show of action by Venezuelan anti-drug authorities. Elements of Venezuela’s military -- particular the National Guard -- have routinely been implicated in facilitating drug shipments through Venezuela, with high-ranking officers rumored to make up what is known as the Cartel of the Suns.
However, as with this case, it is extremely rare for military leadership to be arrested and prosecuted. Instead, it is the rank-and-file members who typically take the brunt of the fallout when Venezuela does decide to look into military involvement in drug trafficking.
SEE ALSO: Cartel of the Suns Profile
Given widespread impunity and its porous border with Colombia, Venezuela has been a favorite staging point for cocaine traffickers moving their product to foreign markets in the United States and Europe. In recent years, the Dominican Republic has also seen an uptick in drug trafficking, and this is not the first time private aircraft have been found moving drugs between the two countries.