Proof positive that the National Guard runs drugs out of Maiquetía

Scarface se quedó pendejo...
Scarface se quedó pendejo…

The French Interior Minister announced today that 1,300 kilos of high purity cocaine were discovered in Paris on an  Air France flight from Caracas on September 11th. The telling detail? The drugs were discovered in bags that were not assigned to any passenger registered on that flight. The drugs were stashed into 30 suitcases, at a back-straining 43 kg. of high grade coke per bag. Altogether, they were worth a staggering 200 million euros. It was the biggest drug bust in the history of La Ville Lumière.

Now, anyone who has witnessed the elaborate controls the National Guard keeps over every aspect of passenger and bag movements in Maiquetía  – where woe be onto you if you try to leave the country with two packs of coffee in your bag as souvenirs – knows perfectly well you can’t get 65 ghost bags onto a plane without them knowing about it. Which makes this pretty much proof positive that the Guardia runs drugs out of Maiquetía.

Sure, we always “knew that”…but now we can drop the scare quotes.

Correction: In fact, the drugs were packed into 30 bags, not 65 as I mistakenly wrote earlier.

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  1. Strangely, the minor stuff they’ve stolen from me still pisses me off more. Its like- with those toneladas of drug they’ve got moving through, why harass the little people?

  2. The Drug War is a pending assignment for Latin American politicians, from former (and still current) leader of Bolivia’s Coca Growing Farmers Federations and now also President Evo Morales, through to all except Uruguayan President Pepe Mujica, none have anything new to offer on this subject.

    Despite the rhetoric used against yankee imperialism and the terrible effects of the drug war on the “producing” countries, caused by the constant and growing demand in the U.S. and Europe, the left in South America is far behind neoliberal stalwarts like former Mexican President Vicente Fox, Brazil’s Cardoso, and if I’m not mistaken even Vargas Llosa, who have all realized the futility of this drug war and the urgency of finding a non-military, non-prohibitionist alternative.

    So yea, of course the narco has infiltrated Chavismo and the National Guard in Venezuela, as it will continue to until this curse is lifted from our nations by the only path: sensible and rational legalization accompanied by effective treatment programs for addicts, education and athletic alternatives for youth, and a change in the paradigm that “drugs”, inanimate substances which cause us to get high, are the problem. The problem is an ill-advised and idiotic war on drugs which has been failing since Nixon announced it in 1970.

    In that vein, its disappointing that Capriles and other Venezuelan opposition figures continue to toe the Reagan line, apparently, while crying constantly that currency controls, market dominated by government bureaucracy and regulations stifle the economy, they purportedly still support the stupidest idea of them all: that the social and human health problem of drug abuse will be solved by a military operation.

      • No, but in the event that Capriles were president, what would change? Would he continue to pursue an unreachable goal: to eliminate the drug trade? Any politician, left or right, that doesn’t aim to fix this issue through some well analyzed policy that takes into account the impossibility of forbidding the use of any chemical substance, and the toll of violence that follows, will fail. It’s a sticky subject because in this case we have clear majorities in favor of the drug war from both sides, and what’s more anyone trying to legalize drugs would face opposition not only from well-meaning people but also from the very drug lords that profit from the situation. My estimate is that we will have to wait many years until our politicians are naturally replaced by younger people who understand that this is not a problem of evil drug users and evil drugs, but of stupid policy and entrenched interests. Not Capriles fault at all, but I would love to see him present a novel idea on the subject.

        • I agree with decriminalization. But it mostly hasn’t happened yet.

          To say that the drug trade has “infiltrated” chavismo is sort of like saying, sports has “infiltrated” the New York Yankees. This is a regime of criminals whose activities run the gamut: drugs, extortion, kidnapping, murder, and making a tidy profit in a million different ways off the “revolution”. It is one thing to have a corrupted system; it is another to have a criminal regime.

          • Remember, “chavismo” means more than chavista politians who are in power. In other words, just as it isn’t true that everyone who is opposition is a pitiyankee, not all chavistas are “criminals whose activities run the gamut: drugs, extortion, kidnapping, murder,…”

          • I think you misread what I said. Nowhere did I say every chavista was a criminal. And I am sure there are some people who work for the New York Yankees who have little interest in baseball.

          • The problem with this is how we define “chavista”.
            Is everyone who votes for this crap a “chavista”?

            At this stage I would say if so, they are either fools or criminals.

        • I agree with government sponsored treatment programs. Nothing will turn kids off faster to drugs than the site of a bunch of loser drug addicts lining up every morning outside the drug treatment center!

          It amazes me that most conservatives in the US can’t understand this simple fact. Their central tenant is that the government makes everything uncool and dysfunctional, why not do the same with drug use? Is there any place more uncool then the DMV? At the same time you can move the largest consumers of drugs (addicts) from the black market and cut drug sellers off at the knees.

          • We have those in Europe. They don’t work as well as you think they do.
            Still, it’s better than putting them in jail, as in the Americas. Just don’t expect it to be the silver bullet. It isn’t.

          • USA is making changes… see what Holder is doing today about mandatory drug minimums. Worry about Venezuela and not the USA

    • Marti, President Nixon has long been dead and he only went after pot because cocaine back then (early 70’s) was the drug of rich musicians, actors and politicians. Get your facts straight.

      There is a difference between hard drugs and soft drugs which you fail to mention. If you want to legalize cocaine then be specific. Cannabis is pretty much legal in the US. Obama recently directed federal agencies to abide by state laws on cannabis.

      So please explain to us why cocaine should be legalized. What are the benefits? It’s not going to happen in the USA. It’s not even on the agenda and nobody is suggesting it.

      You are confused sir.

      • I do think cocaine should be legalized but I don’t have the magic solution. Effectively weed is almost legal in much of the U.S., but thousands are still being arrested for it, and in South America it is still seen as a more “serious drug”. I don’t think cocaine should be freely available, but that’s the problem right now: it is. Education, treatment and well-thought policies will still not keep some from becoming addicts and destroying their lives and those of others, but we need to pit that against the current wave of violence that is sweeping entire societies. I hope the United States doesn’t have to experience what Mexico and Central America are living in order to realize that even the “bad drugs” can’t be effectively and demonstratively (as U.S. Certification rhetoric always goes) erradicated.

    • Marti,

      I agree completely. The movement to end Drug Prohibition is actually gaining momentum. It is not quite yet part of the mainstream public debate, but it is nearly a done deal at higher levels. Everyone knows that the War on Drugs is a failure. It is only a question of how and when we undo this gross policy error.

  3. 1 300 kilogrammes! You go over just by one or two and you have to either pay a hefty fee or “hacerle ojitos a la señorita”. I mean, that’s enough to actually alter the dynamics of the flight and fuel consumption.

    More details, mais en français:

    Like the noticias 24 article, they mention around 30 bags. Since Quico did the calculation with the assumption of 20 kg and got twice that result, that means that the bags weighed around 40 kg. FYI, I did the maths and a large suitcase filled only with cocaine would weigh over 100 kg (My chem degree is finally useful!). This interfered with so many systems (weight limits, not letting bags that belong to no-one on the plane, etc) that pretty much all of the areas of operation had to be in on it.

    My final thought, how on earth did they think they were going to deliver the goods once in Paris? Perhaps I’m being paranoid from watching Breaking Bad (and just being Colombian) but I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that they were set up. That way the cops could see the extent of their abilities and of the corruption. My guess is that they are going to be extremely vigilant of flights from Caracas, maybe they’ll send you to the same corner we get flying in from Bogotá!

    • They talked about Spanish, Dutch and British cooperation…not Venezuelan. On other occasions they did mention some Venezuelan cooperation. Obviously, they don’t trust Venezuelans any more.

      Do you get sent to a different corner? Wouldn’t you be happy to see your Venezuelan cousins in the same area? We could share jokes, insights about where to buy Harina Pan in Montpellier or Bergen, Toledo or Bratislava.

      • It’s not as explicit as it sounds, but the flights from Bogota usually get assigned the baggage belt on the far end, right next to customs, and they usually have canine inspection. (The Americans walk around with their dogs very loudly, the Canadians are more subtle and just blend in). Once in Newark we had to disembark single file through the tunnel as they had sniffing dogs right outside the plane. The good thing is that flights from Bogota are rarely diverted. Once I was flying into Houston and there was like a 30 plane line-up, so the pilot said we were being sent to Austin. 5 minutes later, we were first in line for Houston. Between the drugs and passport control, there’s no way we were being sent to a small airport.

        But yeah, welcome to that! It’d be nice to have a few jokes and talk about arepas.

    • A few people come into luggage collection area and take the bags. They could come from any other plane during that day, or whatever.
      A set up with 1.2 tons of product is ridicolus. 1.2 kilograms, maybe, and probably less than that.

  4. So the National Guard was smuggling a huge amount of high purity cocaine in a CCS-CDG Air France flight and it’s thought they abode by baggage max-weight allowance. Hanlon’s razor in action.

    Count again.

  5. What about the possibility of some airline or airport employees? I’m not saying, nor defending the National Guar. As you say: “we knew that”. But to be fair, narcos have done this without authorities even noticed (their negligence is also “known”), in Colombia, Mexico, etc. Escobar is the master example. The conclusion that the NG put the powder there doesn’t go beyond reasonable doubt, I’ll would keep the quotes. Just in case

      • more scarily, what’s this say about security in general? I guess we should be happy it’s drugs and not bombs. And it is the colmo to spend 4 hours in line at security in Maiquetia while bags go through the back door onto the planes.

      • It may prove they are inept, negligent, not prepared, as we know. It may prove they are bribed to look to the other way. They get bribed for 100 Bs. not to fine you, calculate how easy it is for a narco sending cocaine valued on 200 million USD. It may prove they “run the drugs” as you claim. It may prove that Air France employees put it there, or that Maiquetia’s employees are part of it to. But, if you carry that shit in an commercial flight to Paris, is because you have at least someone there handling the business as well, most likely Air France employees with bribed France police (or whatever). Maybe Hollande is in the business, or Lagarde’s was wating for it to celebrate Merkel’s victory. Conclusions are a palette of colors.

    • Noooo, man! When you go to Maiquetia with more than a bag, the maleteros and all employees have eyes on you. How about the ones that wrap the suitcases? That drug had to be taken in by the NG. No other way around that. Also, they don’t do things “banderita” Its not like that amount of luggage was going to go unnoticed. #nojodasmigueltomas!

  6. Those 30 odd cocaine laden bags couldnt have gone through the airline’s terminal counter , The sheer volume of grossly ‘over the weight’ bags would have been too noticiable , the rule enforced by the airlines dont allow for that . some regular customer would have noticed !! to pass them through the counter would have meant each bag carrying an identification tag easily thraceable to each carrying passenger , Too dangerous . This had to be an operation where the cocaine laden bags where introduced into the plane directly, which means the collaboration of the people handling the bags inside the airline , among the airport staff and of course the GNB. Something which given the scale of the operation would inevitably have required the cooperation of higher ups within the relevant organizations . Its a smoking gun for the participation of high level officials in this huge cocaine smuggling operation.
    This is nothing to do with anyones position on decriminalization , the govt is not an advocate of decriminalization , overtly and officially the drug trafficking is still a crime in Venezuela and one which is officially persecuted .
    In the past there have been international denunciations of high govt and military officials involvement in drug trafficking specially specially as this is a source of income for the FARC insurgents which the govt clearly sympathises with , protects and provides logistical support to behind a veil of thinly disguised neutrality..
    Wonder how the govt will respond to this incident , will it pursue an investigation that leads to the indictment of high govt officials , in the airport and in the GNB ?? or will it give rise to the typical kind of long long investigation where nothing subtantial is ever achieved ??
    Certainly this is an embarrassment to the Regime that wants so hard to make the world believe that is it a lawful regime harbouring no criminal elements. !!
    At the very least its a sign of their total incompetence !!

    • They’ll blame it on the oppo somehow.
      Four years ago I checked my dog in as cargo on an international flight out of Caracas. Two (not one) but TWO Guardia Nacional escorted her to the plane from the cargo terminal. And they examined her and her cage. Rules, they said.

  7. I remember a professor at UCAB 20 years ago doing some maths that tried to show that given the volumes of drugs being imported by the US, the drug trade was not a ‘mulas’ operation (mulas are distractions) but rather than government (port?) officials on both sides had to be in on it. Agree with Quico’s comment ‘who says this was the first time they did this’. Personally, I am horrified about other implications (how easy it would be to put an explosive device on a plane in Maiquetia?). There is a reason why British Airways cancelled the London-Caracas route ages ago (recall the guy that showed up in London with grenades -live- in his luggage?).

    • Look up “Amado Carillo Fuentes”. The government is not in on it. Yes there are rogue border agents… big problem on the Mexican frontier but this is not why the drugs get through. Big porous border my friend. They come by land, by sea, over the air, and under the ground. We cannot agree on sealing the border ok? LEave us alone!!! It’s not the fault of EL IMPERIOOOO

    • He was called “El Señor de los Cielos” (The Lord of the Skies) for his pioneering use of over 27 private Boeing 727 jet airliners to transport Colombian cocaine to municipal airports and airstrips around Mexico. So the conclusion is: government officials in Mexico as we later learned. NEVER has a US government official being indicted for running cocaine cartel or working with the Mexicans how you suggewt. Low level border agents get busted for looking the other way and allowing shipments to come in but nothing large here.

  8. I suspect it’s a bit risky to fly with AirFrance from Caracas after this loss. If they can put a suitcase of cocaine onboard they can put a suitcase of explosives onboard too. Unlikely but there’s no honor in the world of drug cartels.
    Didn’t a Cuban airline carrying Olympic athletes go down near Trinidad after having left Caracas a number years ago ? Louis Posada ? And that was when Venezuela was more or less a
    “stableish” country.

  9. Does anyone know what’s the average weight of luggage for such a machine?
    I also wonder how many unoccupied, CADIVI financed seats were there.

  10. The standard is one piece of luggage per passenger in tourist class and two for 1st class each weighting a max of 25 kgs . Assuming every passenger carried their alloted allowance and that the contraband bags were added to the ordinary passenger bags a 1200kg additional weight to the luggage compartment probably required some careful calculation . Its a very bold operation !!
    No way it could have been done without ‘inside’ collaboration from people in the airline , the NG and the airport authority.

  11. A 2008 report by the GAO concluded emphatically that the National Guard is a drug cartel. Period. We do not need your conclusions but thank you.

  12. The plane was apparently an Airbus A340-300, I don’t know the seating configuration, it could be between 295 to 440 passengers (depending if first and business class seats are present) according to wikipedia, but Air France has at least a variant with only 275 seats. Airliners also take cargo freight in normal operations, I tend to think 1.3 t will not be that much if all goes ok, probably between the security margin (quick calculation: 300*25 kg= 7.5 t, weight difference as empty operational plane and max. take-off weight: 146 t -that is passengers and all load and fuel-)(Maximum take-off weight 276.5t). Maybe they took some other luggage down, who knows… The pilot get the information from the cargo people, there is no direct measurement on the plane. Fuel will be calculated on this too (more load, more consume), but normally is a margin for bad weather diversions too.

  13. These are the airport bosses… the last guy is in the crosshairs… he was blacklisted by the regime after 11A for being “antichavista” held on to his job now running airport security. He’s not a loyalist… he’s out for himself. They will hang him to dry with others involved. He will not have this job in the future.

    Director General
    GB. Luis Gustavo Graterol Caraballo
    Adjunto – Director General
    Lcdo. Rafael Cordero Urgelles
    Director del Despacho
    Tte. César Vivas
    Consejo de Administración
    GB. Luis Gustavo Graterol Caraballo
    GB. César Martínez Ruiz
    CA. Patricia Ferrero
    GB. Lorllys Ramos Acevedo
    Téc. Víctor Salcedo Brito
    Seguridad Aeroportuaria
    Tcnel. Ernesto José Mora Carvajal

  14. Graterol Caraballo in the hot seat. He has dual roles as head of Conviasa. Lets see if he survives this incident. It’s hard to read Maduro but this incident should have him really upset and cannot go unpunished. Maduro needs to show who is the boss. Lets see if the list survives.

    • Roy, “broder”,

      I agree with your proposal but: do you think the Drug Cartels would want that? They would lose billions.
      More importantly: do you think a thousand companies providing hardware and software and services for such institutions as DEA (think also revolving doors) and the military in the Americans would want that? Not at all. They would lose probably as much money or more and, unlike the drug barons, they will have a much harder time to find other sources of income (it’s not like we can unleash conventional wars in America so easily these days, gone are the days in which they could have a Panama).

      So: I doubt very much that will happen in our generation or even the next. Sad.

      • Kepler,

        Actually, I do think it will happen… in about 5 more years, give or take. And it will happen in spite of all the interested parties above.

          • I kind of gave myself an out with “give or take”, but I would be willing to bet on 8 years or less. The legalization of marijuana is starting the ball rolling, and remember it was already done in Portugal, so there is an example in place where the results can be seen.

          • Decriminalization of some substances ( marijuana probably) may result in a controllable situation which doesnt pose that much of a danger to social life. Decriminalization of others may prove more risky , i.e more difficult to control , Im always reminded of what happened in XIX century China with the spread of opium use , a wholesale breakdown in the fabric of everyday life. (e.g. the Opium Wars) . In Europe some countries have been succesful in liberalizing their treatment of drug addiction . ( Britain , the Netherlands , Portugal ) but their govts are much more competent than ours !!

          • The Dutch approach is not only stupid but utterly criminal: they focus on consumption. But they haven’t resolved the real production and trade. You are making matters worse because still you need all the drugs to keep up that consumption and there are not legal frameworks to cope with the required production.

      • Roy ,

        You need to think more about the implications of Sociopathy .These people will always find ways to earn money illegally, and without conscience.
        A certain percentage of the population is sociopathic and there is no cure for it.

        I can think of worse ways to earn money….like human trafficking for example and believe me they will pour their heart into whatever evil they can.

        We will never win the war on drugs unless we all live in dictatorship.So expecting that to happen is unrealistic.But we can decrease drug use.

        If you just simply want to change the statistics on drug related crimes without improving a situation then that is an entirely different case.

        Obviously It is very popular lately to want to end the war on drugs….everybody and his mother says it….it has become just another MEME… fact it is now part of the dreaded ” conventional wisdom, which in my opinion is just another behind the times thought.

        I think perhaps that the war on drugs needs improvement to be more efficient.We need a propaganda war.There are too many people out there who think they are cool because of them, and there are too many people who are not independent enough in spirit to not use chemical crutches to feel’ better’.

  15. Like just about every piece of news from Venezuela we read about these days it seems a parody. You could develop some terrific conspiracy theories around this of course, as some sort of malevolent plot cooked up by the Venezuelan regime to smoother Europe in cocaine, a counter-attack during the war on drugs, as a warning shot … and with the government strapped for cash, wouldn’t it have been nice to have a couple hundred million euros in the caja chica, just in case…

  16. National authorities report on the jailing of 3 National Guards in connection with the attempted smuggling of 1300 kilos of Cocaine in a Ccs to Paris Air France flight .(including a Liutenant ). Todays BBC reporting on the item includes the following paragraph: “…While according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Venezuela does not produce sizeable quantities of cocaine, it has become a transit country for cocaine from Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, which is shipped to the United States and Europe.”
    Venezuelan becoming a hub for international drug trafficking is not casual , it shows that we have become a country which authorities are so incompetent or corrupt that such trafficking is not only tolerated but abetted .

    • Bill, to be fair: I remember having the conversation with a relative about how Venezuela was becoming more of a cocaine country than “just” a transport country. That was in 1997. I was on a visit to Venezuela. We were discussing the murder statistics (back then the murder rate was about 19 murders per 100 000 inhabitants, less than a third the rate we have now).

      I remember I told my relative – who is a doctor working in public hospitals – that I had the impression drug consumption was increasing in Venezuela. She told me I had no idea how bad the situation was becoming. She had to operate day after day criminals who were taken from the barrios with several bullets in their bodies. For the operation they had to prepare the patient and very often many of those criminals were on drugs.

      If you didn’t have that kind of contact and were not living in a slum you didn’t see the problem, but we were already a transport country a long time ago.

      Of course: things now are completely of a different order of magnitude. But back in 1997 the country was already very sick.

      • Kepler thats a very fair comment , many of todays ills have their precedent in maladies which on a more modest scale already existed before Chavez came into power , he magnified those ills and made their cure much more difficult . In a way, what Chavez represents is the exploding expansion of all the vices that characterized our 4th Republic with a ‘spin’ that made ordinary people delight in their existence !!


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