Cocaine "Superhighway" Created By Destabilization In Venezuela

By Lindsey Weedston 04/22/19

In 2018 alone, over $39 billion worth of the illegal drug likely entered the U.S. from this Venezuelan highway.

small plane landing in Venezuela

A CNN report has found that the political destabilization of Venezuela has created a “cocaine superhighway” as authorities look the other way, resulting in tens of billions of dollars' worth of the drug entering the U.S. in 2018 alone.

U.S. officials are blaming the Venezuelan military and political elite, saying that they’re profiting from the increasingly active drug trade during the years of upheaval and hyperinflation.

According to the extensive report put together after a months-long investigation, small planes allegedly full of Colombian cocaine have dramatically increased in number, from two per week leaving Venezuela to nearly one every day. Not only this, but they are now leaving from the northwest region of the country instead of its southern jungles, reducing air time.

The planes mainly travel to Honduras and Guatemala, where many migrants and asylum seekers are currently traveling from to reach the relative safety of the U.S.

The cocaine on board is so valuable that it’s worth significantly more than the planes themselves, which are often “then discarded or set on fire upon arrival.”

In 2018 alone, over $39 billion worth of the illegal drug likely entered the U.S. from this Venezuelan highway.

Some U.S. officials are concerned that Donald Trump’s proposal to cut off all financial aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador would only make the situation worse. This aid has been specifically used to fight the drug trade, and without it, anonymous officials told CNN that the sudden shortfall could cause a “bonanza” for traffickers.

"Right now, it's wide open," said one U.S. officer, "then it'll just be a free for all."

Authorities have been unable to stop these flights largely due to the fact that Venezuela has such a large border area. At the same time, shipments by truck flow through the border with the aid of the Venezuelan military, according to a border patrol defector.

“Everything was coordinated by the brigade commander,” said the anonymous defector, now living in Colombia. “He'd send a lieutenant to tell you what needed to cross, and this was arranged high up above. Those who didn't agree were swapped out... Automatically.”

Recent reports in the U.S. have found that cocaine overdose deaths have increased in recent years, but these statistics have been overshadowed by the opioid epidemic.

Data from the National Center for Health Statistics obtained by The Washington Post found a spike in cocaine-related deaths from 2011 to 2016, rising about 13% each year.

Batches of the drug mixed with the highly potent opioid fentanyl have also been an increasing problem, with police in Massachusetts finding a threefold increase in drug samples containing both from 2016 to 2017.

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: