Washington -- The United States says Venezuela's
announced intent to suspend future cooperation and coordination
with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is "unfortunate"
and will only help drug traffickers and their allies.
In an August 8 statement posted on its Web
site, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas said that it values the
"close cooperation maintained for decades between the
DEA and their Venezuelan counterparts in combating the illegal
trade in narcotics." This "cooperation has saved
the lives of innocent Venezuelan and U.S. citizens,"
the embassy added.
The administration of Venezuela's President
Hugo Chavez said August 7 it is severing its ties with the
DEA, and charged that the U.S. agency was spying on Venezuela.
The United States denied the charge, saying the DEA's only
task is fighting illegal drugs.
The U.S. Embassy said that on September
15, President Bush must notify the U.S. Congress on certification
of governments that are fully cooperating under the U.S.
International Narcotics Control Act.
"The state of cooperation between U.S.
and Venezuelan law enforcement agencies will certainly be
factored into that decision," said the embassy.
Under the Narcotics Control Act, the U.S.
president is required to submit to the U.S. Congress each
year a list of those countries that are determined to be
major illicit drug-producing and/or drug-transit countries.
The law requires that part of U.S. government foreign assistance
to any country on this "majors" list be withheld
until the president determines whether the country should
be "certified" as fully cooperating against illegal
In 2004, Venezuela was one of 24 countries
included on the U.S. "majors list" of major illicit
drug-producing and/or drug-transit countries.
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli
added to the U.S. Embassy's comments, by saying August 8
that accusations that the DEA is involved in espionage are
"baseless." He added: "There's no substance
or justification" for such charges.
Ereli said it would be "regrettable"
if the reports that Venezuela is ending cooperation with
the DEA on fighting drug trafficking are true.
The United States, he said, wants to continue
counternarcotics cooperation, "but I would note that
over the past several months, we've seen a steady deterioration
in the government of Venezuela's commitment on this front."
Ereli repeated the warning that if Venezuela
proceeds to sever ties on anti-drug cooperation, "that
would obviously have an impact on deliberations concerning
our annual decision-making process regarding Venezuela's
counternarcotics cooperation efforts under the International
Narcotics Control Act."
The State Department said in its International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report for 2005 that a "remote
and poorly secured 2,200-kilometer border is all that separates
Venezuela from Colombia -- the world's primary source of
cocaine and South America's top producer of heroin."
Colombian cartels and other smugglers routinely
exploit a variety of routes and methods to move hundreds
of tons of illegal drugs into Venezuela every year, said
the report. It added that cocaine is smuggled from Venezuela
to the United States and Europe in multi-hundred-kilo to
multi-ton lots via maritime cargo containers, fishing vessels
and "go-fast" boats.
In addition, the report said armed Colombian
guerrilla organizations move through parts of Venezuela
"without significant disruption by the Venezuelan security
Information about the U.S. certification
process and the International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report are available at the
State Department Web site.
Washington File Staff Writer