Nicolas Maduro reportedly moving against Diosdado Cabello to seize control of The Cartel of the Suns
A little known fact outside of Venezuela is the regime operates as several groups, each of which is its own criminal organization, similar to the five mafia families in the Godfather. Some groups are more powerful than others and while they cooperate on some things mostly they are competing with each other for control over the various forms of graft that they use to accumulate vast quantities of wealth. One of the most profitable and thus most desired by them all is Narcotics trafficking from the Venezuela / Colombia border region.
Recent U.S. Department of Justice charging documents indicate that starting in mid 1999 as the FARC Narco-Terrorist organization was negotiating a peace deal with the Colombian government they were also negotiating another deal. This other deal would see the FARC relocate some of its operations to Venezuela under the protection of The Cartel of the Suns.
The Cartel of the Suns gets its name from the golden suns that sit on a Venezuelan Generals shoulder boards. The Cartel was originally made up of high ranking members of the Venezuelan armed forces but has grown to include all branches of the Government and is run by Diosdado Cabello. Currently he is a Captain in the military and the president of the National Constituent Assembly, but over the years Diosdado has held many different positions within the government. He was a Chief of Staff to President Hugo Chavez, Vice President of Venezuela, Governor of Miranda State & President of the National Assembly. An assortment of the members of the cartel are shown below in graphics from InSight Crime.
Recently there have been a number of narco trafficking aircraft that have crashed or been forced to land in Venezuela. Multiple sources I have spoke to in the Venezuelan Armed Forces indicated there is a power struggle going on behind the scenes for control of the aerial trafficking routes from western Venezuela. Historically these routes were controlled by Diosdado Cabello as the head of the Cartel of the Suns, but for the last several weeks he has been very sick with COVID-19 and it is believed that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has made a move to try and seize control while he is incapacitated.
The Cartel operates with impunity because they are protected by their members who are Generals in control of the military. A "tax" of up to 50% is paid to the Cartel for each flight to facilitate the co-operation of rank and file members of the military who are not otherwise affiliated with the criminal organization. The belief with in the Venezuelan Armed Forces is that Maduro has offered to reduce the tax to one or more of Diosdados Generals, and in return the Generals have directed their forces to take down numerous narco flights that have not redirected their tax payments to Maduro instead of Diosdado.
On July 30th a U.S. registered Beech 200 Super King Air with tail number N515BA was detected by Comprehensive Aerospace Defence Command (CODAI) and tracked to a clandestine runway in the Rio Negro region of Zulia, where they destroyed it. Just a few days before the aircraft was making trips around Mexico and it is probable this is where the flight to Venezuela originated.
The next day on August 1st a U.S. registered Cessna 402 tail number N17JE took off, this time from the Dominican Republic and disappeared from radar. About 40 hours later the aircraft was located floating in Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela's Zulia state. The pilot was later identified as Oswaldo Enrique Bislick Weeden a Venezuelan national and 10 people in the Dominican Republic have been arrested in connection with this illegal flight.
Then on August 9th the Venezuelan Armed Forces sent out a tweet claiming to have shot down a Mexican registered BAe-125-800A tail number XB-RAY again in the state of Zulia, this time near Maracaibo and La Chinita International Airport. The image they shared shows one of the planes jet engines buried in the sand.
August 10th a U.S. registered Rockwell Sabreliner 75A tail number N400RS was attempting to enter Venezuela illegally and was detected by the CODAI near Paraguaná, Venezuela. This time the aircraft attempted to evade the Venezuelan Air Force and crashed while making evasive maneuvers. Both the pilot and co-pilot died in the crash.
As long as Diosdado Cabello is unable to direct the cartel's activities that power vaccume will likely cause a continued struggle amongst the various factions within the Venezuelan regime. Only time will tell what the future will hold for the Cartel of the Suns.
Written by Simon Bolivar
Graphics and information from InSightCrime.org