Venezuelan authorities never disclosed that another cocaine haul was discovered in a jet plane earlier this year, raising new questions about the amount of drugs being moved through the country's main international airport to destinations abroad.
A story published by Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional revealed that authorities found 168 kilos of cocaine in a small jet on April 16. Neither Venezuela's Public Ministry nor the top anti-drug authority disclosed information about this seizure, the newspaper reported.
The cocaine was packed into four suitcases on board an aircraft that was bound for the Dominican Republic. The plane took off from Venezuela's biggest international airport, the Maiquetia, just outside Caracas, but landed again after just five minutes in the air due to a reported technical problem.
The subsequent investigation saw seven people arrested, including an officer from the Bolivarian National Guard.
InSight Crime Analysis
This recent seizure -- just 168 kilos packed into four suitcases -- pales in comparison to past incidents, like the ton of cocaine found on an Air France jet that flew from Caracas to Paris last year. But as El Nacional suggests, the fact that the April seizure was never reported by Venezuelan authorities raises questions about what other drug hauls the public isn't hearing about.
Venezuela's anti-drug police haven't handled security at the Maiquetia international airport since 2006. Instead, it has been in the hands of the Bolivarian National Guard, elements of which are believed to be deeply involved in cocaine trafficking as part of a drug trafficking network known as the Cartel de los Soles. Several National Guard officials were arrested following last year's Air France bust, as well as during an investigation involving an Italian woman -- the former secretary of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- who was caught trafficking cocaine from Venezuela earlier this year.
SEE ALSO: Cartel de los Soles Profile
What Venezuela desperately needs is a thorough investigation into which high-level officials of the National Guard are complicit in the drug trade rather than more arrests of low-ranking officials and airport workers. But it's doubtful that President Nicolas Maduro's administration has the political will to push this through, given his need to stay on good terms with the security forces. And so long as airport drug inspection remains in the hands of the National Guard, these problems will likely continue.