U.S. Coast Guard Busts Nine Venezuelans for Smuggling Cocaine

Cocaine smugglers
Courtesy USCG

Published Jun 10, 2024 7:26 PM by The Maritime Executive


Last week, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter crew intercepted a suspicious boat and arrested nine Venezuelan nationals with a cargo of $7 million worth of cocaine. 

Early on June 3, the crew of the cutter Heriberto Hernandez spotted a suspect vessel about 75 nautical miles to the south of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. When they approached the boat, the suspects began throwing parcels over the side. The Hernandez's crew interdicted and halted the vessel, and they detained nine men on board. All claimed to be Venezuelan nationals. 

The crew of the Hernandez took the detainees on board, along with the seized cocaine, and handed them off to the fast response cutter Charles David Jr. for delivery to Puerto Rico. On Friday, the crew of the Charles David disembarked the suspects at Coast Guard Base San Juan and handed them over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA is taking over the investigation into the case. 

The total haul recovered from the interdiction came to 245 kilos, valued at $7.4 million. 

"[This] successful interdiction and seizure underscore the relentless commitment and collaboration of our federal, local, and regional partners in combating drug trafficking in the Caribbean," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Denise Foster. "The efforts of the Coast Guard and all agencies involved in this operation are vital to our mission of safeguarding our communities from the scourge of narcotics."

Venezuela's weak governance, unguarded borders, limited law enforcement and location next to cocaine-producing Colombia all make it a popular trafficking route for cartels, according to the U.S. Department of State. From Venezuelan shores, the drug gets smuggled to all of the major destination markets and transshipment areas - North America, Europe, and the common intermediate points in Central America and West Africa. Members of the administration of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro have collaborated with armed groups in Colombia to facilitate cocaine trafficking, according to U.S. Southern Command.

While most of the growing and processing activity occurs on the Colombian side of the border, a nascent coca production industry is becoming established in Zulia province, on the Venezuelan side, according to Insight Crime.