The International Narcotics Control Board (an independent body within the United Nations) released its annual report for 2021 in late March detailing important facts about the Sinaloa Cartel’s presence in South America. The report indicated that the Sinaloa Cartel was active in Zulia, a Venezuelan state located on the border with Colombia.

The document indicates that the cartel uses airstrips, has built logistic centers and manages the collection of drugs in cooperation with the Colombian rebel group National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN).

Venezuela, which is in a very deteriorated socio-economical situation, reported the destruction of 36 clandestine landing strips and the seizure of 23 aircraft in 2019. Most of the country’s clandestine airstrips are located in Zulia, a significant area for cocaine manufacture. However, the number of airstrips in Zulia might be large than reported.

According to reports from various organizations monitoring the matter, some 400 airstrips have been identified for the landing and departure of aircraft bound for the Caribbean islands and Central America. It appears that drugs flown from Venezuela are primarily bound for El Salvador and Honduras.

In November 2020, Gino Alfonso Garcés Vergara, a captain in the Venezuelan Air Force, was arrested in Colombia. He was wanted for taking bribes of US$500,000 dollars to allow aircraft loaded with drugs to pass.

Last year, the UN stated that the Sinaloa Cartel entered Venezuela through the violence-torn municipality of Machiques de Perijá (Zulia state). The cartel has changed the daily life of the surrounding area, especially with the proliferation of prostitution. To land or take off from the airstrips of Machiques de Perijá, members of the Sinaloa Cartel reportedly pay between US$40,000 and $60,000.

Source: Bordeland and Beat