HomeNewsMonagas: The Missing Link for Venezuela Drug Traffickers

Monagas: The Missing Link for Venezuela Drug Traffickers


Venezuela’s northeastern state of Monagas has shot up in the country’s drug seizure rankings in 2023, a sign traffickers may be seeking alternative routes as authorities crack down in other states. 

Venezuela's national drugs agency (Superintendencia Nacional Antidrogas - Sunad) seized 24 tons of drugs between January and June 2023, Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos Ichaso wrote on Twitter.

In all, Monagas accounted for over 12% of those seizures, behind only Zulia, a western state on the Colombian border, which had 53% of all seizures. Approximately 2.85 tons of drugs were confiscated in Monagas, a staggering leap from the 17 kilograms found in all of 2022. 

SEE ALSO: Maduro Seeks to Be Venezuela’s Criminal Kingmaker

Raids by authorities revealed that drug traffickers have set up advanced logistics in the state. In early June, a joint raid by the Venezuelan police and army dismantled one camp in the municipality of Maturín. The camp was allegedly used to produce cocaine and to build “narco-submarines” to ship the drugs.

Three months earlier, one such vessel believed to have been built in Maturín was caught with 2.8 kilograms of drugs in a jungle river between the states of Monagas and Sucre. 

InSight Crime Analysis 

While the dramatic increase in cocaine seized in Monagas this year may be partially due to traffickers seeking alternate routes, it is also likely a result of increased scrutiny by authorities. 

Over the last year, large-scale operations by Venezuelan security forces have targeted drug trafficking in other coastal states, which may have pushed traffickers to shift their activities to Monagas. In September 2022, Operation Manaure was launched to crack down on active drug trafficking along the Paraguaná peninsula in the state of Falcón. It followed on the heels of Operation Cacique Cayaurima, which focused on reducing drug trafficking in eastern Venezuela, especially Sucre.

Monagas is also strategically located for moving drugs, with a long stretch of Caribbean coast not far from Trinidad and Tobago. Many of the drug shipments passing through Monagas go through La Pica, a parish within the municipality of Maturín, which has access to the Caribbean Sea and the site where the narco-submarine camp was found in June. Investigations by InSight Crime have revealed that cocaine has been sent from La Pica to Mexico, the United States, and Europe. In addition to its location, La Pica has a minimal police presence.

“There is no type of check or control," a retired police officer told InSight Crime, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "There is no police or coast guard base there. That makes logistics and mobilizing operations easier.”

Further inland, the area of La Bruja in the municipality of Punceres is known for housing clandestine landing strips for drug flights. The southern municipalities of Libertador and Sotillo have been used to move cocaine by river into the neighboring states of Bolívar and Delta Amacuro.

SEE ALSO: Why the ELN is Attacking One Specific Town Along Venezuela's Orinoco River

Monagas' strategic location has also recently caught the attention of transnational groups. In early 2022, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN), Colombia's last remaining guerrilla group, reportedly clashed with a local gang known as the Barrancas Syndicate (Sindicato de Barrancas) in the town of Barrancas del Orinoco in Sotillo.

While the latest shipments have not been linked to the ELN, shipments of cocaine from Colombia are currently moved into Venezuela, pass through states where the ELN has a heavy presence -- such as Amazonas, Apure, Guárico, and Bolívar -- and to the Caribbean coast.

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.


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.


Related Content

AUC / 5 MAY 2022

Accused Colombia drug lord Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel,” has been extradited to the United States, bringing to an end…


The FBL were a useful criminal ally to Maduro's regime in Venezuela. They were granted favors, political power, and impunity,…

BOLIVIA / 8 NOV 2022

Environmental crime is driving deforestation across the Amazon, where some parts are now emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb.

About InSight Crime


InSight Crime Contributes Expertise Across the Board 

22 SEP 2023

This week InSight Crime investigators Sara García and María Fernanda Ramírez led a discussion of the challenges posed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” plan within urban contexts. The…


InSight Crime Cited in New Colombia Drug Policy Plan

15 SEP 2023

InSight Crime’s work on emerging coca cultivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Venezuela was cited in the Colombian government’s…


InSight Crime Discusses Honduran Women's Prison Investigation

8 SEP 2023

Investigators Victoria Dittmar and María Fernanda Ramírez discussed InSight Crime’s recent investigation of a massacre in Honduras’ only women’s prison in a Twitter Spaces event on…


Human Trafficking Investigation Published in Leading Mexican Newspaper

1 SEP 2023

Leading Mexican media outlet El Universal featured our most recent investigation, “The Geography of Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border,” on the front page of its August 30…


InSight Crime's Coverage of Ecuador Leads International Debate

25 AUG 2023

This week, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime, was interviewed by La Sexta, a Spanish television channel, about the situation of extreme violence and insecurity in Ecuador…