Venezuelan authorities found more than 3.3 tons of cocaine at a port north of Caracas, apparently being shipped from Colombia to Mexico.
National Guard troops found the drug at La Guaira port on Thursday, hidden in over 1,000 boxes of powder for making ceramics, according to Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami. The minister claimed that the substance was being shipped to Mexico. Two Mexicans and one Venezuelan were arrested during the operation, reports El Universal.
The authorities were alerted to the presence of the drugs because the cost of shipping the boxes was higher than the stated worth of their contents, causing suspicion.
El Aissami stated that Venezuela was seizing more drugs than ever, and that the latest confiscation reinforced that government's drug policy.
InSight Crime Analysis
This shipment likely came from Colombia -- Venezuela has become the biggest transit country for cocaine produced by its neighbor, and the cargo was reportedly packed by a company in Tachira state, which borders on the Colombian province of Norte de Santander.
Venezuela has become an increasingly important route for shipping cocaine from the Andean region to Europe, the US and Mexico. As Colombia has tightened security over the last decade, clamping down on illegal landing strips and increasing observation at sea ports, it has become safer to send the drug over the loosely policed border into Venezuela. Lax policing, and corruption amongst offcials, make the country even more attractive to traffickers.
Much of the cocaine trade over the Colombia-Venezuela border is dominated by the Colombian Rastrojos working in concert with the Mexican Zetas, according to think tank Nuevo Arco Iris.
The 3.3 ton find is significant, but it remains a tiny fraction of the amount of cocaine that passes through the country, which a US State Department estimate put at 161-212 tons in 2011.
Aissami is not correct in saying that Venezuela is seizing more drugs than ever; the country confiscated 42 tons of drugs in 2011, compared to the previous years' totals of 63, 60, and 40, respectively. This is all significantly lower than the peak of 152 tons seized in 2005.