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The Size and Importance of Venezuela's Illegal Economies

Date & Time

Jan. 14, 2020
9:00am – 12:00pm ET


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center


The dimensions of Venezuela’s illegal economies have been growing for more than two decades. Illicit activities include narcotics trafficking, illegal gold mining, and the long-standing smuggling of gasoline, food, and other basic necessities across porous borders.

U.S.-imposed sanctions in 2019 on the country’s all-important but declining oil industry, in addition to earlier financial and individual sanctions, have increased the importance of illegal sources of income for the government of Nicolás Maduro. How can we understand the relationship between the Venezuelan state and the various illegal economies, at least one of which—gold—has the strong presence and involvement of Colombia’s ELN and FARC guerrillas? How important are these resources for the survival of Maduro regime? Is it possible to quantify the revenue from these various illicit activities or the ways such revenue is used? How are communities and regions within Venezuela, particularly along the border, adapting to the expansion of criminal activity, which serves as a source of income and employment? 


Asdrúbal Oliveros, Director, Ecoanalítica
Bram Ebus, Consultant, International Crisis Group
Rocío San Miguel, President, Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional
Risa Grais-Targow, Director, Latin America, Eurasia
Joshua Goodman, Latin America Correspondent, The Associated Press

Cynthia J. Arnson, Director, Latin American Program


Photo by Flickr by Jonatan Calderon 

Hosted By

Latin America Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin America Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more

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