As a key transit point for cocaine shipments destined for Europe and the United States, Venezuela has long been a staging ground for Colombian guerrilla groups and other players in the drug trade. The country has also produced its own brand of criminal actors, including megagangs controlled by prison bosses and powerful government-supported paramilitary forces, known as colectivos. Officials at the highest levels of the government and security have links to organized crime, including a shadowy group within the military dubbed the “Cartel of the Suns.”
How Grenades Became a Common Part of Venezuela's Criminal Arsenal
In all of Latin America, Venezuela has a unique problem: constant grenade attacks by criminal gangs.
3 Takeaways From UNICEF Report on Child Recruitment in Colombia
A new study has outlined how the ethnicity and socio-economic background of children are key factors in their forced recruitment in Colombia.
La Pista: Venezuelans Find Refuge in Colombian Desert
An abandoned Colombian airport has become a shelter for thousands of migrants fleeing organized crime in Venezuela.
Venezuela is a key transit country for drug shipments leaving Colombia for the United States and Europe. Foreign groups, particularly Colombians, have traditionally controlled Venezuela's drug trade, being attracted by poor rule of law and corruption. There is evidence, however, that beginning in the mid-2000s corrupt elements in the security forces stepped up their role in the business, forming a loose network dubbed the "Cartel de los Soles" (Cartel of the Suns). Corrupt members of the security forces have also been major providers of weapons to the black market, to the particular benefit of Colombian guerrilla groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN).Venezuela Profile
Venezuela's Organized Crime Top 10 for 2023
Central General Staff - Ex-FARC Mafia
Acacio Medina Front - Ex-FARC Mafia
Héctor Rusthenford Guerrero Flores, alias 'Niño Guerrero'
Héctor Rusthenford Guerrero Flores, alias “Niño Guerrero," is the leader of Tren de Aragua, Venezuela's largest homegrown criminal group.
Hermágoras González Polanco, alias ‘Gordito González’
Hermágoras González Polanco has been active in Venezuela's drug trafficking scene for over four decades, thanks to his ability to adapt.
Erick Alberto Parra Mendoza, alias “Yeico Masacre”, is the leader of one of the most violent gangs in Venezuela's state of Zulia.
Carlos Luis Revete, alias 'El Koki'
Carlos Luis Revette, alias “El Koki,” is one of Venezuela’s most wanted criminals and leader of the “megabanda" that controls the Cota 905 district to the southwest of Caracas.
Wilexis Alexander Acevedo Monasterios, alias 'Wilexis'
Wilexis Alexander Acevedo Monasterios has led the gang which bears his name since at least 2017. With between 150 and 200 people in its ranks, the Wilexis gang controls the…
Álex Saab is a Colombian businessman known for making million dollar deals with the Venezuelan government involving prefabricated houses and the state’s food supply program, which has been criticized for…
Samark López Bello
Samark López Bello is a Venezuelan businessman and currently a fugitive from American justice facing charges of laundering drug money.
Tareck El Aissami
Tareck El Aissami is the Minister of Industries and National Production of Venezuela. He has held this position since June 2018, the latest in a series of high-ranking positions in…
Walid Makled, otherwise known as “El Turco” or “El Arabe," was once the most powerful civilian drug trafficker in Venezuela.
The illegal sale of scrap metal has become another earner for government officials and military figures in Venezuela.
Venezuela's new asset forfeiture law seeks to act against corrupt state actors and criminals. But is its successful implementation likely?…
Colombia's security policy has made clear the country's intention to tackle the ELN. But to do so, it's relying on the help of Venezuela.
“They keep an eye on the transportation and the water. When something is damaged, they work with officials and fix it. They control the gas stations," said a resident of…
As organized crime increases in Venezuela, more people and businesses are falling victim to extortion carried out by opportunists.
Zulia's gasoline black market has disappeared as government policies and supply increases take effect. But will it soon return?…
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