HomeNewsBriefVenezuelan Crack Down on Gas Smuggling Sparks Anger in Border State
BRIEF

Venezuelan Crack Down on Gas Smuggling Sparks Anger in Border State

CONTRABAND / 19 JUL 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

A new government strategy to counter gas smuggling in the Venezuelan border state of Zulia has created a fierce backlash among locals and furthermore looks unlikely to be able to counter the main area of the trade controlled by large criminal groups.

Workers in the public transport sector of Zulia’s capital, Maracaibo, are organizing a protest against the new electronic "chip" system (aimed at tracking gas sales) for July 18, reported El Nacional. Opposition lawmakers in the Maracaibo Municipal Council also say they are lobbying for a referendum over the use of the tracking system.

The "chip" is actually a barcode attached to car windshields. Each car is assigned a monthly quota of gasoline, which the chip tracks. Before buying gas at a station, the chip is scanned, and the sale is only completed if the monthly quota has not yet been met.

The system was first implemented in the border state of Tachira in 2010, home to one of the busiest border crossings in Latin America, between the Venezuelan town of San Antonio del Tachira and the Colombian city of Cucuta. 

The government hopes that by tracking gasoline sales, they will be able to cut down on the contraband gas trade between Venezuela and Colombia, a highly profitable industry due to the enormous price disparity; a gallon of gas sells for 18 cents in Venezuela, compared to $5 in Colombia.

While the illicit trade has become the livelihood for many small-time traffickers in the Colombia-Venezuela border region, many of these smugglers are extorted by larger criminal groups for the right to operate. Colombian drug trafficking organization the Rastrojos are currently thought to be the major criminal group controlling Zulia state, including the capital Maracaibo.

InSight Crime Analysis

It remains to be seen exactly how effective the chip will be in reining in the illegal gasoline trade. While it will certainly have an effect on the amount of monthly gas that individual buyers can purchase, the real money in the trade is made from the large containers of gas that are smuggled across the border with the complicity of Venezuela and Colombia border officials. A report released in April by Colombian think tank Nuevo Arco Iris foundation described how truck drivers smuggling gas must pay bribes at multiple police roadblocks from Venezuela to Colombia.

While the chip system appears to have been effective in reducing overall gas sales in Tachira, it is a method of control that focuses on individual gas buyers, not the organized smugglers who contribute the most to the problem, and who operate with the permission of the border security forces. The system is likely to continue to generate more discontent in Zulia, to the point where expanding the system nationwide may come with too great a political cost for the government.

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

COLOMBIA / 18 MAY 2021

The killing of a notorious Colombian dissident guerrilla leader on Venezuelan soil has the potential to destabilize underworld dynamics in…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 25 FEB 2021

Itapúa is a minor marijuana producer but an important transit corridor for cannabis smuggled into Argentina. Some areas of the…

ELITES AND CRIME / 11 APR 2022

Elements of the Venezuelan underworld, whether drug cartels, street gangs or illegal mining groups, have hit upon a unique way…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…

WORK WITH US

Work With Us: Research Internship and Editorial Internship

31 OCT 2022

InSight Crime, a think tank dedicated to the study of organized crime and citizen security in the Americas, is seeking interns and investigators to join its dynamic, multinational team.