Colombia anti-smuggling operations curb contraband traffic across Venezuela’s border

Posted on Jun 20 2014 - 2:17am by Today News
(Photo: Contraluz Cucuta)

Anti-smuggling operations on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border made progress this week in the fight against the trafficking of contraband from Venezuela, national media reported on Thursday.

In northern Colombia, National Police involved in an anti-smuggling campaign, “Cambiate de Bando, No al Contrabando,” claim to have identified six staging posts for contraband along the Caribbean coast, including in the cities of Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Sincelejo, and Monteria, according to Colombia’s El Heraldo newspaper.

According to General Gustavo Alberto Moreno, director of the Tax and Customs police, large loads of contraband, such as cigarettes, alcohol, and food, are being smuggled from Venezuela along routes from La Guajira, Colombia’s northernmost state.

Moreno added that since they have already identified the criminal chain from La Guajira, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Unit of Financial Research and Analysis (UIAF) will be joining forces with the National Police to assist with investigations already underway.

Moreno announced that in the coming weeks the customs police will be working closely with the National Highways and Roads Police, who are cracking down in particular on illegal cigarettes and liquor.

Police intelligence reports that the contraband business is permeated by criminal gangs, estimating that Colombia loses nearly $800 million a year in revenue, which then goes to the illegal groups to finance the armed conflict.

Anti-smuggling program director of the National Federation of States, Felipe Cordoba, said that in the coastal state of Cordoba, $3.5 million in revenue is lost a year due to cigarette smuggling alone.

“Plan Sentinel”

On Tuesday, in cooperation with Colombian National Police, the Venezuelan National Guard seized more than 11 kilos of cocaine, 50 metric tons of food staples, 8,500 gallons of diesel, 57 TVs, and other products such as feed concentrates and powder detergent in the Venezuelan border state of Tachira that were apparently bound for Colombia, according to reports by Venezuela National Radio.

Major General Garcia Duque issued a warning to Venezuelan agencies that food distribution in Venezuela “is not even”: about 60% of food arriving legally in Tachira is being sent to border towns, because the exchange rate allows a large profit to those who market food.

Duque says that the criminal bands are using national food distribution agencies as resources to “mount and divert food to the border, intended as contraband to Colombia.”

In coordination with police in Colombia, Major General Duque is doing research on how the national distribution system can “prevent leakage of food to the sister Republic of Colombia.”


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