Venezuela, the not-so-quiet drug violence problem

Venezuela, a country whose main problems usually appear to be related to food or other goods shortages in international media is in a curious situation in the start of 2014, in which drug traficking appears to be growing but the violence usually associated with this problem does not seem to be exposed in the national press.

According to the National Anti-drug Office, last year a little more than 46 tonnes of drugs were seized in Venezuela, which means the illegal activities are growing compared to the previous year. Also, almost 10 thousand people were arrested for breaking drug related laws during the same period.

However, the levels of violence that affect many other countries in the same geographical area and which also are mostly used as a bridge to transport drugs to both the United States and Europe, does not appear to occur in this country; the frightening number of deaths of Mexico, Colombia or the so-called North Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador), classified by the United Nations as the most violent zone of the world, are not visible in Venezuela.

Despite the government´s best efforts to deny or acknowledge the existence of a problem related to violence, different civil organisations reported that during 2013 nearly 25 thousand people died for that reason and it was the homicide of the actress and former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her ex husband, in the beggining of this year, that gave notoriety to an otherwise overlooked situation.

How much of that violence is related to drug traficking is hard to quantify, but some press stories have also claimed that involvment of military personnel in drug related business is common place and the recent incident, in which a Mexican registered ariplane was shot down and burned afterwards by the Venezuelan authorities for arguably being used by drug smuglers, just made it evident that a problem does exist.

Furthermore, several cases of drug smuggling to other countries in which even Venezuelan diplomats were implicated have also been reported, but the government of Nicolas Maduro argues that right wing groups are behind the promotion of such stories and —according to Maduro, they are now even using drugs as a currency to pay those involved and all of this would be orchestrated by the United States government.

Just a few days ago, Venezuela expelled three US consular officials (without given names) for their alleged involvment in violent protest last week, so, in this murky scenario it is hard to spot which violence is related to drug trafficking or other forms of crime or even to social unrest.

Apparently, the way Venezuelan authorities try to control drug smuggling does not cause the high numbers of casualties that other nations in the area have experienced, however, it is also worth mentioning that Maduro´s administration has censored the national media several times to prevent any information related to every type of violence being reported.

Thus, with the on-going exchange of accusations by both the government and several organisations about who or what is responsible for the violence in the South American country, it is the population that feels fed up with the authorities´ apparent inability let alone to stop violence, but even to ackowledge its existence.