The US Coast Guard arrested nine Venezuelans for cocaine smuggling
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The US Coast Guard arrested nine Venezuelans for cocaine smuggling

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

Early in the morning of June 3, the crew of the cutter Heriberto Hernandez spotted a suspicious vessel approximately 75 nautical miles south of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. As they approached the boat, the suspects began throwing packages overboard. The Hernandez the crew ordered and detained the ship, and detained nine men on board. They all claimed to be Venezuelan citizens.

Crew Hernandez took the detainees on board along with the confiscated cocaine and handed them over to the rapid response cutter Charles David Jr. with delivery to Puerto Rico. On Friday, the crew Charles David dropped the suspects off at the Coast Guard base in San Juan and turned them over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA is taking over the investigation.

The total haul recovered from the ban was 245 kilograms, valued at $7.4 million.

β€œ(This) effective interception and seizure highlights the continued commitment and cooperation of our federal, local and regional partners in combating drug trafficking in the Caribbean,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Denise Foster. β€œThe efforts of the Coast Guard and all agencies involved in this operation are critical to our mission to protect our communities from the scourge of drugs.”

According to the U.S. Department of State, weak governance, unguarded borders, limited law enforcement and a location near cocaine-producing Colombia make Venezuela a popular smuggling route for cartels. From the coast of Venezuela, the drug is smuggled to all major destination markets and transshipment areas – North America, Europe and common intermediate points in Central America and West Africa. According to U.S. Southern Command, members of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s administration worked with armed groups in Colombia to facilitate cocaine trafficking.

Although most cultivation and processing takes place on the Colombian side of the border, a nascent coca industry is beginning to emerge in the province of Zulia on the Venezuelan side, according to Insight Crime.