Venezuela: Corrupt Police Officers Sentenced

A Venezuelan court has sentenced five former police officers to more than two decades in prison for drug trafficking, InSight Crime reports.  Three civilians were also convicted.

The eight defendants, all hailing from the northern state of Falcón, were connected to the seizure of more than one ton of drugs found on an aircraft.  The bust, which took place in August 2011, involved a shootout at an airport that left a Venezuelan National Guard member and a civilian dead, according to Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

Four of the officers, José Pimentel, Juan Mendoza, Alberto Sánchez, and Wender Ramírez, received 26-year sentences while fellow former officer Alexander Cuaro received a slightly shorter 24-year sentence.  Civilians Juan Estrela, Carlos Colina, and Betty Goitía were found guilty of drug trafficking.  Colina and Goitía were given prison terms of 17 years while Estrela was additionally found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm and sentenced to 18 and a half years.

Corruption in law enforcement is a major problem in Venezuela.  InSight Crime notes that the lengthy  sentences received by the five officers may be intended to signal that the country is cracking down on corruption.