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Venezuela Announces Suspension of Bilateral Anti-Drug Efforts

Suspension of ties may benefit drug traffickers

Posted: August 13, 2005

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 drugs.

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 forces."

Information about the U.S. certification process and the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report are available at the State Department Web site.

Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

 
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