Venezuela Hides its Cocaine Behind Marijuana Seizures

Latin America

Venezuela’s anti-narcotics agency reported that marijuana made up 80 percent of its drug seizures in the first half of 2019, contradicting international reports that point to cocaine as the drug most trafficked out of Venezuela. 

The director of the National Anti-Drugs Office (Oficina Nacional Antidrogas – ONA), Alberto Matheus, revealed the tendency during a presentation of the 2019-2025 National Anti-Drug Plan.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profile

But the figures don’t seem to line up. InSight Crime accessed ONA’s official 2017 report in which the same authorities reported that marijuana made up 14.24 percent of total drug seizures, while cocaine made up 85.67 percent. The official report for 2018’s seizures was not released.

Graphic from an official report by Venezuela’s National Anti-Drugs Office (ONA)

During the presentation, Matheus did not offer any further details about the seizures, but made it clear that the government emphatically opposes “any legalization of drugs that destroy the human race.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The lack of transparency and information on the part of the Venezuelan government regarding drug seizures, consumption and trafficking, raises doubts about the veracity of the information presented.

There are no recent management reports published on ONA’s official page. The data for marijuana seizures taking place in 2019 so far is not backed up by any public documents. Also not provided, are the locations and characteristics of seizures, such as the number of tons of the other drugs included in the total quantity seized.

Venezuela’s former anti-drugs tsar, Mildred Camero, told InSight Crime that it is very probable that authorities “are modifying the statistics to evade responsibility for the true reality of drug trafficking – specifically of cocaine – within Venezuelan territory.” 

SEE ALSO: Drug Trafficking Within the Venezuelan Regime: The ‘Cartel of the Suns’

According to Camero, it is contradictory that the drug most seized abroad is cocaine, which is also historically the drug most trafficked out of Venezuela, but that marijuana now accounts for such a vast majority of seizures. “This means only two things: that there is a failure at police checkpoints or that there is complicity on the part of officials so that cocaine shipments go undetected,” says Camero.

At the end of 2018, Transparency Venezuela presented its first CRIMJUST Project report, a joint initiative between the United Nations Office Against Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Interpol and Transparency International, in which they evaluated nine countries located along cocaine trafficking routes in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa. Venezuela had the poorest results as the report found that although laws do exist against corruption and organized crime, they are not put into practice. 

The General-Coordinator for the Free Chair on Anti-Drugs Matters (Cátedra Libre Antidroga – CLIAD), Hernán Matute Brouzés, agreed that Venezuela is covering up and disguising cocaine trafficking in the country. “This is a deceitful statistic that they are using to mislead,” he added. “They hide [the cocaine trafficking] because this is an outlaw state that is involved in distinct illicit activities that other countries have been sanctioned for.” 

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