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CNN 10

Lawmakers Await Full Results of Mueller Investigation; CNN Reveals How Venezuela Has Become Route for Illegal Drug Smugglers

Aired April 18, 2019 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 ANCHOR: Welcome to a new edition of CNN 10. I`m Carl Azuz. Happy to see you this Thursday. There is some news expected out of

Washington, DC today. It concerns the Mueller Report, the special investigation by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. It looked into

alleged Russian interference with the U.S. presidential election of 2016. The Justice Department already released a summary of the report to

Congress, that happened last month. It said the investigation did not find that the campaign of Donald Trump illegally conspired or coordinated with

Russia. The Mueller Report didn`t draw a conclusion about whether President Trump obstructed justice, if he illegally interfered with

government work.

But the summary said the U.S. Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General both concluded that there wasn`t sufficient evidence that the president had

done anything wrong. So what`s happening today? Well Democrats said the four page summary wasn`t enough. They wanted to see the entire Mueller

Report of more than 300 pages. That`s expected to be released today, though it`s also expected to be redacted meaning parts of it will likely be

edited or removed first. CNN 10 is planning to follow up on this story next week.

10 Second Trivia. Which of these countries won its independence from Spain in 1811? Brazil, Haiti, Venezuela, or Jamaica. Only one of these

countries that won its independence from Spain is Venezuela.

Venezuela`s leader is starting to let humanitarian aid into the country. For years, President Nicolas Maduro has denied that there`s a crisis in

Venezuela but this week his government allowed the Red Cross to make its first delivery there. The United Nations estimates that more than 20

percent of Venezuelans are in desperate need of supplies like medicine. With its economy in shambles, a CNN investigation just found that illegal

drug trafficking through Venezuela is soaring. The country accuses the U.S. and Colombia of trying to distract attention toward Venezuela to hide

their own defeat in the war on drugs. But Nick Paton Walsh found first hand how Venezuela is becoming a major currier of cocaine.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Below is a cocaine super highway enriching Venezuela`s corrupt elite by (ph) bringing

coke to American streets. These thin lines are secret pathways from Colombia`s cocaine farming heartland below, across into neighboring

Venezuela. From there billions of dollars of the drug are smuggled north in tiny planes, U.S. and regional officials told CNN aided by Venezuela`s

army and elite. The Colombian military we`re with don`t get any lower to stay out of the range of track (ph) and machine guns and talk to locals

mostly through the leaflets they drop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve stopped drug flights out of Colombia he told me but not from places we don`t control.

WALSH: He means Venezuela, just five miles away. Below they think they`ve spotted a cocaine laboratory one of many fueling Venezuela`s role as a

cocaine courier. Which a CNN investigation has learned is booming just as the country collapses, 240 tons went from Colombia to Venezuela in 2018.

After a third (ph) in one year, a U.S. official told us which could fetch $40 billion on U.S. streets. That traffic happening down below, one

possible (inaudible) why do many in the Venezuelan army and government never (inaudible) give up on Nicolas Maduro . They`re simply making too

much money.

The trade remains mostly secret inside Venezuela on the other side of the border here but we were able to learn more about these illegal routes in

from recent defectors from the Venezuelan army border patrol. And about how their officers ordered them to let cross specific trucks carrying

cocaine. For five years this sergeant got those orders often three times a week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE TRANSLATED: The cars that cross both weapons and drugs were pick ups and we would be told the color and make of the truck and

when, usually just after dawn or dusk. Everything was coordinated by the brigade commander. He`d send a lieutenant to tell you what needed to cross

and this was arranged high up above. Those who didn`t agree were swapped out automatically.

WALSH: He fled to here, Colombia when the pressure to comply got too much and his unit found themselves confined to base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE TRANSLATED: We were locked on the base. The general would say, everyone must be with us. Leave or speak against the

government, you`ll get arrested. They had us brainwashed with food handouts. One night I couldn`t take it anymore. I went home and told my

wife, we leave for Colombia. My son started crying and said, Dad what are we going to do? But I knew if they stayed without me they`d be captured or


WALSH: Venezuelan state TV occasionally shows how their armed forces crack down on the trade here intersecting Mexican pilots that have previously

rejected allegations their actually running the drugs. And then they`ll respond to several requests for comment. But a U.S. official has told CNN

these flights are surging, they use to take off from the remote hidden runways in the southern Venezuelan jungle but in the last three years moved

north a U.S. official told CNN to reduce flying time. There used to be three a week but last year there were almost daily. This year, they`ve

seen as many as eight in a single day a regional official said using 50 hidden runways.

CNN has seen a confidential U.S. radar map approximately here that shows the sharp turn left of planes from Venezuela take before landing on the

remote Central American coast line off of Honduras before the cocaine travels north through Mexico to the United States. Honduras is where we

pick up the trail of this booming traffic again on the coastline below turned into a surreal graveyard of narco planes. Cocaine cargo they carry

is worth so many millions the plane itself is just a fraction in a billion dollar deal. So, many are discarded (inaudible) all over the jungle or

crammed here into one river bend.

The troops we`re with don`t want to be on camera for their safety. Some of these have their markings torn off to make the job of working exactly where

they come from even harder. America`s drug habit is where the money, the route (ph), all begins. But that same open market also supplies a key part

of the logistics here. When the fires deprived most of this plane of kind of distinguishing characteristics but you can still see N4 there. N

meaning this plane originated in the United States. Brokers, a U.S. official tells me, buy up dozens of old planes at auction in the United

States and hide their ownership in shell companies to send them south to start the cocaine journey north from Venezuela.

Again, another N, which means another plane that started its days in the United States. It`s not just traffickers in Venezuela and the U.S. making

billions, the entire region is in on it. This is surely Honduras` biggest industry, the billions at stake everywhere. From this jungle road which is

actually a hidden runway up to the Honduran president`s brother indicted last year on trafficking charges which he denies. You can`t stop the

planes being sold or taking off one officer tells me. So they instead just have to try and make landing harder by blowing holes in the runways. Just

in slowing down this multibillion dollar trade requires so many more holes to be blown in this vast expanse of jungle.

The amounts of money cocaine brings here literally dwarfs any effort to fight it. Insane amounts of cash and to some villages along this coastline

that have none. In fact, the Honduran army tells us traffickers flying towards these villages often kick their cargo overboard when they think

they`re about to be intercepted. Each 30 kilogram bundle of cocaine is attached to floats and then drifts ashore. They then pay these communities

of fishermen $150,000 for each recovered bundle. It`s calculus for corruption that most officials I spoke to admit they (inaudible) and that

no police or aid operation can really hope to challenge.

One that sees the collapsing Maduro government has the alleged couriers cashing in fast in a region of desperate (inaudible).


AZUZ: At first this will look like your run of the mill pontoon boat hanging out on a lake. Nothing really unusual here until we zoom out and

now you see the problem. There was no one aboard the boat. No lives were threatened here. Officials believe that recent severe storms in the area

caused the boat to break loose and drift to the edge of a dam. Once the weather calmed down, wildlife officers used an electric wench to pull the

boat back to shore.

All hands on deck to stop a "shipwreck", to keep the "boat afloat", a "tact to stay intact". For "bow to stern" and from "port to starboard" it still

"seaworthy" of being "safely harbored". It was "on the edge", "hanging out", "in it deep". One "waterfall" away from being "posidenseat" but

thanks to some "maritime magic" in a pinch she "sails" again "tugged" away by a "wench". I`m your "anchor" Carl Azuz taking a "bow" for CNN.