Smuggled Venezuelan Gasoline Fuels an Entire Economy Next Door

Smuggled Venezuelan Gasoline Fuels an Entire Economy Next Door
Andrew Rosati – September 24, 2015 — 7:00 PM EDT – Bloomberg

smuggled fuel

Motorboats ferry gasoline through the tributaries of the Orinoco River. Photographer: Andrew Rosati/Bloomberg

Maduro fusses over contraband to Colombia. Is Guyana next?
With little enforcement, smugglers unload in broad daylight

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has deployed thousands of soldiers, shuttered large swaths of his country’s border with Colombia and deported hundreds of migrants in his latest crackdown on contraband. He may now be starting to look at a different border where Venezuela’s almost free gasoline has been flowing liberally.  

Motorboats ferry gasoline through the tributaries of the Orinoco River. 

Troops have begun to build up near Guyana’s western frontier, where entire towns subsist on smuggled Venezuelan fuel and market stalls are packed with goods brought in illegally. For years, authorities in the tiny, English-speaking South American nation not only looked the other way, they virtually embraced the practice.  [Read more]

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  • guyaneseonline  On 09/26/2015 at 12:18 pm

    Venezuelans are Smuggling Petrol Into Colombia
    November 6, 2014

    by Laura Rodriguez Castro

    In Colombia, just over the border from Venezuela, you can tell how long a petrol bootlegger has been in the business by looking at his hands. They’re dark and stained from smuggling fuel in dirty plastic jugs called pimpinas. The old men selling it, known as pimpineros, all have the same hands.

    The word pimpinero seems to have some correlation to pimp, but only by coincidence. There is nothing pimp-y about the vendor end of the trade. As you drive to Cúcuta, the Colombian city closest to the border, roadside stands selling petrol at a third of the official Colombian price litter the highway. It’s hot, hazardous, and illegal work…… read more…

  • guyaneseonline  On 09/26/2015 at 12:23 pm

    The Political Economy of Gas Smuggling
    Francisco Toro / October 31, 2014

    Caracas-based economist Asdrubal Oliveros recently estimated 130,000 barrels of gasoline are now smuggled across the border to Colombia each and every day.

    That’s a big number. How big?

    Well, assuming our men in uniform are bad at business and only make $65 per barrel sold (they’re wholesalers, after all), that would work out $8.5 million dollars every day, $253.5 million dollars a month, $3.08 billion a year…. read more….

  • guyaneseonline  On 09/26/2015 at 12:26 pm

    Fuel Smugglers Making Large Profits, Venezuelan Authorities Crack Down

    Merida, 15th October 2013 ( – As part of a clamp down on trafficking of Venezuela’s regulated and subsidised fuel, authorities have confiscated 1 million litres of fuel being smuggled across the border to Colombia and dismantled a mafia gang in Bolivar state which smuggled up to 250,000 litres per week, most likely to Brazil.

    Yesterday General William Barrientos, head of the Border Command being implemented in Zulia state along the border with Colombia, talked to press about how the plan has been going since its commencement 44 days ago.

    He said that the Bolivarian National Armed Forces had been carrying out maintenance on water and road infrastructure, but also running operations to uncover Caletas, which he argued were the roots of the problem of food and petrol being smuggled across the border. Caletas are the places where food or petrol, bought at regulated prices, is stored.

    Barrientos said that in 44 days the army had repossessed a million litres of petrol and 300 tonnes of food.

    Further, in Guajira, to the north of Zulia, the Border Command is carrying out of census of families in order to distribute food in “an organised way”. Guajira, with a population of 65,000, a majority of which are indigenous Wayuu, borders Colombia and is on the Caribbean coast.

    “We’re designing a system with all the institutions that are working with the Border Command in order to take basic food items directly to housing, house by house,” Barrientos said. He stated that food arrived in the Guajira municipality in amounts that are above the real consumption needs of the area.

    Last month petroleum minister Rafael Ramirez also announced the implementation of a special petroleum distribution system, called Special Border Fuel Supply (Safec) in La Guajira. It involves PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company and local cooperatives selling fuel at an “international price” of Bs 5-12 per litre (US$ 0.80 – 1.90 at the official exchange rate).

    The price provides cooperatives with a “reasonable profit”, but also undermines the smuggling rings. Petrol costs Bs 0.082 in Venezuela and is selling at Bs 20 on the border, or 250 times more the buying price.

    Moreover, on Sunday the National Guard arrested 12 people in Bolivar state for allegedly smuggling fuel. It also confiscated 250,000 litres of gasoil they had on a boat, and shut down the smuggling complex. The complex involved storing gasoil in cisterns and transporting it through hundreds of kilometres of underground piping to the river and the boat. General Commander of the National Guard, Justo Noguera, said the boat was loaded up once a week. It would have headed to Brazil or Guyana.

    Fuel smuggling to Colombia costs Venezuela US$ 1.4 billion per year, with 30,000 barrels smuggled daily, according to a report coming out of a bilateral meeting between the Colombian and Venezuelan governments in August this year. Eight states in Venezuela share borders with other countries, including the islands of Curazao, Aruba, and Trinidad and Tobago.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 09/26/2015 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing these articles, Cyril.

    Corruption. Corruption. Corruption. Could the Venezuelan government use this illegal oil trade with Guyana to justify the mobilization of troops along its border with Guyana?

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