William Neuman reporting for the NYTimes on how Cocaine’s Flow Is Unchecked in Venezuela
e and it doesn’t matter,” said one resident, standing beside an eight-foot-deep hole that soldiers had blown in a runway near the Cinaruco River, the plains stretching out for miles. “They can make another one right next to it.”
But perhaps the main attraction for traffickers is that the federal government’s hold on large parts of Apure, the poorest state in the country, is tentative at best.
In many areas, residents say, the real power is held by the FARC, which they describe as moving around the state with alarming impunity.
One resident living in Santos Luzardo National Park, a picturesque preserve abounding in wildlife, said that last month two FARC members patrolled the remote area on motorcycles, asking farmers if they had heard any airplanes, apparently concerned that traffickers were using a nearby airstrip without paying.
The guerrillas also collect protection money from local businesses, ranchers and fishing camps along some parts of Venezuela’s long border with Colombia. One resident said that a small group of FARC members showed up at a homestead in December and set up camp for a week, using it as a base to patrol the area and possibly protecting drug flights. He said the owner had no choice about whether to accept, although the guerrillas brought their own food.
The residents also expressed fear and mistrust of government authorities. Most said they believed that local officials and soldiers were in league with the traffickers and that passing along information about the traffickers’ activities would result in reprisals. Residents said they had learned to coexist with the traffickers just as they had gotten used to the frequent sound of low-flying aircraft at night. But many said they were fearful and felt intimidated.