• The Venezuelan drug trade is booming as the socialist country’s economy continues to collapse, according to a CNN report.
  • The traffickers are making so much money delivering Colombian cocaine to the US that they often burn their courier planes after using them once, CNN said.
  • Venezuela’s military and political leaders are facilitating the smuggling, US officials told CNN.
Venezuelan traffickers moving Colombian cocaine to the US are making so much money from their operations that they are frequently using smuggling planes just once before discarding them, a CNN report found.

The drugs are largely smuggled into and out of Venezuela with the help of its military and political elite, US and regional officials told CNN.

The trade is so lucrative that a smuggler often uses a courier plane once, wrecking it or burning it after landing, the report said. A US official told CNN that the number of flights had increased to as many as eight daily this year from about two weekly in 2017.

CNN said its investigation followed the cargo crossing the porous Colombian-Venezuelan border through illegal routes, then to the Central American nation of Honduras in tiny planes. From there, the cocaine is transported through Mexico to the US.

venezuela drug trade map
CNN had access to a radar map of the route Venezuelan traffickers take when transporting drugs through Honduras to the US.

Top military officials and politicians in Venezuela are the people profiting the most from the increased trade, CNN reported.

“Everything was coordinated by the brigade commander. He’d send a lieutenant, who’d tell you what needed to cross, and this was arranged high up above,” he said. “Those who didn’t agree were swapped out automatically.”

High-ranking officers in the Venezuelan military have long faced accusations of corruption and facilitating the trade. This has been important for President Nicolás Maduro to maintain his power base, as military leaders have a lot of money to lose if they defect, CNN said.