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A Venezuelan city kidnapped by drug trafficking (PART 2)

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

How the city of Casigua El Cubo was kidnapped by drug trafficking and the Colombian guerrillas.

By Maibort Petit


The economy

Casigua El Cubo has a traditionally oil, timber and fishing economy, although livestock, agricultural, dairy processing and oil production also predominate. However, the most prosperous industry in that population is the production of cocaine and its transport by land, sea and air.

The mafia war

People died, got hurt or disappeared within the Jesús María Semprún Municipality of the Zulia state. There is no evidence that Mayor Lucía Mavárez was involved in any illegal activity, but there never was a review of the flow of cash that moves through the municipality and it is just ignored by her administration. We learned that an individual in 2014 reported to the Colombian anti-narcotics authorities that an alleged relationship exists between drug trafficking and the political power of the area. The person who made the report disappeared. We also learned that the Mayor's name appears in two Catatumbo intelligence reports. No one was ever formally charged .

On January 21, 2015, the Mayor's home was shot at. SEBIN officials and CICPC carried out the corresponding expertises at the scene, they did not reach any conclusion. " They said that it was the smugglers of gasoline and food in the area who acted in revenge for the actions of Mavárez,

"The truth is that it was the head of the route who was looking to pay for the merchandise," says Pérez with a slow and fearful.

"Nobody wants to report because they are afraid," he says. Despite these press reviews and the witnesses who were at the scene,

Lucía Mavárez told the QuePasa media that at no time did they carry out an attack against her.

"In my house there are no bullets, no one fired any shots, the only thing we did was test gunpowder."

Here is the text in question:

Mavárez pointed out that last Tuesday night she and a group of officials and bodyguards tested some pyrotechnic fires that were protected in boxes and apparently believed they were wet, at her residence in Campo de Lata in Casigua.

That would be used at the Río de Oro festival,

where there will be representatives from Venezuela, Colombia and other countries.

"We will continue working for the revolution, deepening the different work fronts,

articulating what we must to continue providing attention to the communities," said Mavárez, who did not rule out opposition factors that have expanded the misrepresented information.

Bullets everywhere Another event that was the subject of gossip in the town was the fact that the son of the mayor of Semprún, Luis Alberto Villamizar Mavárez, shot his bodyguard, Anthony Ardila Vera, and sent him to the hospital.

The matter was reported in the local press on March 13, 2013, as an allegedly passionate fact that was not clarified by the police authorities.

The mayor's son has municipal police credentials.

No one was arrested for the incident.

"That's how it is here, power covers its back and silence is paid at a high price."

The mayor denounces the paramilitaries,

Mavárez came to power in 2008 and in 2009 told the National Assembly that the Municipality of Jesús M. Semprum was taken over by paramilitaries.

However, no one did anything and the complaint was never repeated, not even in the press.

A press review reads the following:

The mayor of the Jesús María Semprum municipality, Lucía del Carmen Mavárez, denounced yesterday before the Internal Policy Commission of the National Assembly the presence of Colombian paramilitaries in the area, specifically in Casigua, who, in complicity with officials of the Regional Police, operate a extortion mafia, hit man and cowboy. “It is a municipality that in some way is very taken over by the paramilitaries and that from that humble town we are resisting. These types of groups are operating in our business collecting vaccines, putting pressure on the entire community for them to take more possession of our municipality every day ”, argued Mayor Mavárez before the deputies.

The vice president of the Internal Policy Commission, deputy Iris Varela, described the complaints presented by the official as "very serious", since there are videos, photographs and documents that certify the presence of paramilitaries in the South of Lake Maracaibo. "The mayor herself was threatened with a gun in her house and that warrants that one pass it on to the State investigation bodies and that responsibilities be determined urgently," said the deputy from Tachi. Varela accused the Zulia Regional Police "of serving as a custodian of the paramilitaries and drug trafficking in 'Jesús María Semprum."

“One of the serious things that the mayor said, for example, is that everyone in that town knows each other, they realize how the Regional Police is practically opening and behind the paramilitaries, the vaccine collectors and the jíbaros who sell the drug. They take them as a security ring so that they can do their thing in the municipality and return safely to Colombian territory, ”said Varela. Faced with this situation, Varela reported that he has already spoken with the Minister of Internal Relations and Justice, so that all State agencies have a presence in the municipality that, in his opinion, should have greater security to delimit with Colombian territory. See review here. No investigation or action took place from these complaints. Only one accusation by the media against the former governor of Zulia, Pablo Pérez, which did not go further. Guerrilla Quotas

Pedro P. is a man who does not usually talk to people. In fact, he is reserved and many fear him because of the mysteries that he seems to have stored deep within his being. José, my guide, arrived at a house in the Las Palmeras neighborhood that, if it weren't for the fact that I could see it through facetime, I would have sworn it didn't exist. It was a sunny morning and a languid light filtered through the window made of zinc cans, turning the scene into a gloomy atmosphere.

The first thing Pedro said is that the walls in town have ears. He began by narrating his personal experience with the guerrillas.

"They have been here for a long time.

It was not with the Chavistas who arrived.

What did happen under the government of Chávez and Maduro is that the routes were expanded,

protection systems were improved, and agreements were reached that could not be reached before. to think ".

- What agreements? , -I asked for.

- The guerrilla chief reached agreements with the

Venezuelan civil and military authorities here in the municipality.

There is a special quota that is required of the mayor of Semprún that is equivalent to 25 percent of the mayoral staff. They gave in and the guerrilla envoys work in the municipality on the orders of the chief. The mayor has a route that she dominates and cares for. She with the military command offers him protection. We tried to find out with people from the mayor's office but it was impossible to contact someone who could confirm or deny the version, and at the same time, guarantee the safety of the guide who made this chronicle possible.

drug routes require coordination
Lots of coordination in the routes

This town has been transformed so much that people are no longer amazed at what is happening.

Pedro remembers that a few months ago there was an attack and,

even though the man had 30 bodyguards,

there was one death,

because the Colombian chief wanted to kill him

because of a problem with a route.

Under the agreements, those involved respect each other. When someone stops doing it and tries to remove one of the protégés from the game,

they “immediately finish it” [they kill him].

Pedro refer to a case that, according to him, drew attention, when two subjects on a motorcycle killed Antoni de la Consolación Ardila Vera, when he was in front of his residence on the main street of the Propatria sector, in the municipality Jesus Maria Semprún. "Several of the group that are in charge of drug trafficking in the area know that when they interfere they are already corpses, and they act as such even though they are still alive," he said.

There is a man who lives with a banshee. J. Salas traded his soul for a mountain of dollars. The agony is such that he does not spend a day in the same place to avoid being caught. His mother lives in the shadows of fear and stabbed by the pain of being hostage to drug traffickers.

The organization

The Colombian "bosses" have, in turn, a boss in Casigua El Cubo appointed from Colombia. If this guy "gets lost with the money",

they look for him wherever he is to kill him.

During 2016, three local chiefs were killed.

One of them disappeared with the money from the sale that he had to deliver to his commander

and the hitmen killed him along with his wife.

The perpetrators demanded that the cash they had seized be returned to them and

when they did not get a response,

they simply killed them in the presence of their neighbors, who must have contained their emotions of terror.

Casigua ended up becoming fertile ground for the cartels. It is, in addition, a privileged place for the clandestine tracks that have increased enormously in the last decade. There are many reports that indicate how the increase in air traffic occurred from the Venezuelan border, where the country appears to have a privileged position for the production and transportation of cocaine that is taken to Central America as a transit zone to its final destination in the United States and Europe.

Alberto is another inhabitant who agreed to speak with us. For years he has been aware of the tactics criminal organizations use to run their business. This 45-year-old man assures that the creativity of drug traffickers does not cease when it comes to devising formulas that allow them to move the merchandise without being detected. “These people have developed different strategies and allied groups in the town. Many times they use vehicles, military trucks, ambulances, official cars and the light aircraft that are the most effective. There they carry the drug in small quantities, generally it does not exceed 100 kilograms ”.

He tells how one of the bosses explained that they shipped small quantities and made numerous trips, since that way less merchandise is lost when it is intercepted.

Alberto also referred to the proliferation of clandestine runways from where small planes leave almost every day.

The drug traffickers take advantage of the shortcomings in surveillance of the radars that exist in the area,

as well as the complicity of the authorities to carry out the largest number of daily flights.

In general, there are not enough logistical and technical resources to detect small planes and, almost always,

they lack the capacity to stop the illicit flights that tend to land on other makeshift runways in the reception areas in the jungles of Honduras and Guatemala. Alberto says that the chiefs hire the boys from the town to build the clandestine airstrips, which are made very easily, they have a width of between 80 and 100 meters and a length that, on some occasions, reaches 1,500 meters or more.

Small planes leave these hidden tracks in the mountains that can carry up to 300 kilograms of drugs per trip.

The bosses pay the owner of the land and the workers who make them,

they are inexpensive and "the investment" is recovered on the first trip.

The drug industry is the one that produces the most money in Casigua El Cubo.

Definitely, drug trafficking is not only an illegal and criminal activity,

it is also a way of life.

Many families in this area work in laboratories or as "mules", transporting cocaine as the only way to survive.

The Barí population has also joined the drug business, accepting to carry small portions or working for the shift boss.

When children and young people get involved they do it only to earn money to live.

Many residents believe that drug money helps many families survive and generates benefits for the community, although they recognize that the criminal industry is accompanied by violence that leaves many deaths and destruction in its wake. In Casigua El Cubo we suffer the presence and action of the Colombian cartels and guerrillas and

in addition, of the gangs of young people who are generally poor boys who are delighted with easy money.

The gang members know them in the community,

they know who they are and where they came from.

Local chiefs, on the other hand, are a bit more reserved, try to keep a low profile and prefer secrecy than recognition from the settlers.

Alberto warns that in the laboratories set up by the guerrillas in the mountains, up to a ton of cocaine can be processed monthly. The appearance of these laboratories means that Venezuela's prominence in the drug trafficking industry has increased, since before the country was only one step of the merchandise, but in recent years it has become a hidden producer of controlled substances.

A North American government report maintains that 40 percent of the world's cocaine, about 140 tons, is trafficked through this route.

The means of transport are very varied,

from human couriers,

shipments concealed between legal merchandise,

through traditional postal shipments,

drugs camouflaged in vehicles along the border and

even submarines that some drug traffickers have to transport the expensive product.

The profitability of illegal cocaine trafficking explains why so much effort is invested in maintaining it, since it is the most productive part of the chain. This stage is where 98.5 percent of the money stays, while the crop only retains 1.5 percent.

The United States authorities estimate that cocaine is taken from Colombia through the Pacific or through the so-called Caribbean corridor, that is, along the northern coast of Colombia and Venezuela, and that is where the border populations participate in the industry.

The effect of this traffic is dramatic.

In Casigua El Cubo,

in addition to the fight between the gangs,

the drug cartel bosses star in their own confrontation,

which has left dead and

sowed fear that has settled in the minds of residents who in just a few years, the place where they were born has been made unrecognizable. Nobody in the town imagined that the geographical situation was going to turn them into a desirable land for the mafias that roam daily to find the most innovative and expeditious ways to get this merchandise out of horror.

In the town it is rumored that the drug is going north, where there are many overwhelmed souls waiting for the magic powder that allows them to abandon their reality for a few minutes.

There are many reports that assure that in the United States,

drug use became a public health problem of the first order.

In 2009, a report from the United States Congress said that from 2004 to 2007, the amount of cocaine exported from Colombia through Venezuela had quadrupled, reaching 17% of the world cocaine trade in 2007. Cocaine smuggling grew in Venezuela in the 2010s, going from around 25% of South American cocaine that came from the field in 2010 and approximately 33% in 2015. In 2016 it is estimated that the numbers have increased substantially, although up to now the figures are not known.

P.S. This is the first part of the chronicle. Fictitious names are used to protect the lives of the protagonists who agreed to speak only under the guarantee that their names were reserved and presented anonymously. The recordings of their voices serve as an investigative piece and their privacy is guaranteed by the norms for the protection of journalistic sources.

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