HomeNewsBriefVenezuela Tries Low Level Military Drug Traffickers
BRIEF

Venezuela Tries Low Level Military Drug Traffickers

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 18 JAN 2016 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Seven current and former Venezuela military officials are to be tried for allowing illegal drug flights to transit through the country, in a small-scale prosecution that continues to leave the highest ranks of corrupt military untouched.

A court in the state of Aragua has confirmed charges against five Venezuelan Military Air Force officials -- a major, a captain and two lieutenants -- and two retired National Guard officials, according to a Public Ministry press release. These individuals are suspected of allowing the entrance and exit of non-authorized aircraft through Venezuelan air space, and will be tried for drug trafficking, conspiracy and the formation of armed groups.

Among the accused is the Air Force Coronel Rafael Ponce Delgado, who was formerly in charge of control tower communications in Las Flecheras airport, in the state of Apure, which borders Colombia.

SEE ALSO:  Venezuela News and Profiles

The current and former military officials are being detained. Three Colombian nationals and one Venezuelan have been sentenced to five years in prison as part of the same case.

The Public Ministry added that a high ranking military official allegedly offered a substantial amount of dollars per month -- though it is unclear to whom -- in return for allowing the passage of illegal flights.

Investigations began in May 2015 after allegations were presented to the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (Dirección General de Contrainteligencia Militar - DGCIM).

InSight Crime Analysis

While this investigation into military involvement in criminal activities by a Venezuelan court is encouraging, its focus on low-ranking officials is of little impact, and avoids targeting the military elite believed to be behind the country's drug trafficking operations.

Although such prosecutions aim to take out the lower rungs of the corrupt military, it is largely believed that involvement in drug trafficking reaches the very top military posts -- referred to as the "Cartel of the Suns" (Cartel de los Soles) -- as well as leading politicians (the current Vice-president and former National Assembly leader Diosdado Cabello has been on the receiving end of numerous allegations in recent months).

SEE ALSO:  Cartel de los Soles News and Profile

This new trial brings to mind the unsatisfactory judicial backlash that followed the historic bust of 1.3 tons of cocaine on a commercial flight from Caracas to Paris in 2013. A number of National Guard members -- including two sergeants and a first lieutenant -- were subsequently detained, although it was suggested that these arrests were merely a façade, while the true brains behind the operation remained free.

The impunity of high-level figures continues despite increasing pressure by the United States' to expose the involvement of elements of the Venezuelan government in illegal trafficking activities. In December 2015, the US Department of Justice announced that it would bring charges against numerous top Venezuelan government officials, naming only the head of the National Guard and former Drug Czar Nestor Reverol, and the former top antidrug official Edilberto Molina.

Furthermore, November 2015 saw the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrest the Venezuelan first lady's nephews in Haiti, and the pair are currently being tried by a New York court on cocaine smuggling charges. The reaction of Venezuela's socialist government has generally been denial, and First Lady Cilia Flores most recently spoke up on the case, claiming that the DEA had "kidnapped" her nephews.

The military represents a key power base for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's crumbling socialist government, so it is unsurprising that the executive choose to turn a blind eye to serious criminal allegations to avoid compromising the army's support for the regime.

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

VENEZUELA / 2 MAY 2022

The arrests of three people in Venezuela for Facebook Marketplace posts in which they allegedly offered kidneys for sale have…

PIRACY / 8 JUL 2015

Pirates are reportedly attacking fishermen in Venezuelan waters, a striking illustration of the many ways various criminal actors make a…

CARIBBEAN / 11 FEB 2022

Latin American countries scored poorly on Transparency International’s latest corruption index, with the worst joining the ranks of war-torn nations…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…