Venezuela Dismisses U.S. Criticism on Cooperation against Drug Trafficking

The U.S. government criticized Venezuela for the third consecutive year in its annual memorandum on major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries. Venezuela's Attorney General dismissed the report as part of the U.S. government's "psychotic" relationship to Venezuela.

Caracas, September 18, 2007 ( The U.S. government criticized Venezuela for the third consecutive year in its annual memorandum on major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries. Venezuela's Attorney General dismissed the report as part of the U.S. government's "psychotic" relationship to Venezuela.

According to the report, Venezuela has "failed demonstrably adhere to their obligations under international counter-narcotics agreements," to cooperate in the fight against drugs. The only other country to have been similarly classified in the annual report was Myanmar.

The decertification of Venezuela would normally lead to sanctions in the form of reducing financial support to the country by half. However, citing "vital national interests," – Venezuela is the fourth largest oil exporter to the US accounting for 1.1 to 1.5 million barrels per day – the U.S. State Department said it would waive sanctions for a second year.

"The waiver allows us to continue to support some of their democratic institutions and their society," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter-Narcotics, Christy McCampbell, told a press conference in Washington yesterday.

The key issue at stake appears to be Venezuela's refusal to allow the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to carry out operations in the country. Venezuela broke off relations with the DEA in August 2005 after President Hugo Chavez accused DEA operatives of carrying out espionage and operating outside of Venezuelan law. Ever since then Venezuela and the U.S. have been negotiating off and on about the signing of a memorandum of understanding that would re-start cooperation between Venezuelan and U.S. authorities.

However, the report also accuses Venezuela of not doing enough in general to fight drug trafficking.

Venezuelan Minister of Justice Pedro Carreño, reaffirmed yesterday that Venezuela is not disposed to work with the DEA. In May Carreño had accused the DEA of operating as a "drug cartel." He added that Venezuelan authorities had "determined that via this organization [the DEA], a large quantity of drugs left our country by way of the delivery of confiscations, of which we were never informed."

Ever since Venezuela broke off relations with the DEA the U.S. government has repeatedly made allegations that Venezuelan authorities are not doing enough to combat drug trafficking. However, Venezuelan authorities have repeatedly rejected the claims. According to Venezuela's National Anti-Drug office, drug interdictions increased from 43.2 tons in 2004, to 77 tons in 2005. For 2006 Venezuelan authorities captured 60.3 tons and Minister Carreño added that security forces have confiscated 33.8 tons of drugs so far this year.

The latest accusations by the U.S. come as Venezuela's National Assembly Commission for Justice investigates the possible illegal activity and relationship of DEA operatives with the government of the state of Zulia. The investigations were solicited by National Assembly Deputies from Zulia Rafic Souki and Francisco López after a letter published in the Aug 17-23 edition of Que Pasa, a regional newspaper in Zulia, where judge Castillo Boniel refers to a meeting on June 6 hosted by the President of the Penal Judicial Circuit of Zulia, Jacqueline Fernández, in which operatives of the DEA participated as well as a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy.

According to Boniel, Olga Nieto, public Prosecutor of the Republic of Colombia announced to the meeting "He was visiting the state of Zulia with regard to the presentation of a Project of International Cooperation between the Regional Government of Zulia and Colombia, with special reference to the constitutional law Against the Illicit Traffic and the Consumption of Psychotropic and Narcotic Substances and the constitutional law Against Organized Crime."

Judge Boneil points out that the Project of International Cooperation being carried out between Colombia and the regional government of Zulia, with the participation of U.S. operatives is totally, "out of order," and that projects such as this should only correspond with the National Government, particularly, he added, "when we are speaking of drug trafficking and organized crime, which affect the security of the State."

Other South American nations have also criticized U.S. drug control policy in the region. In August Nicaragua rejected a U.S. proposal for joint operations between its National Police and the DEA. "One must be careful because at times the DEA mounts operations with an unsuspected interest, that goes beyond drug trafficking. One must be careful of that, we cannot be blind," Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said.

Similarly, although the US declined to place Bolivia in the same category as Venezuela and Myanmar, of having "failed demonstrably" to cooperate in the fight against drugs, saying Bolivian efforts to combat drugs were "uneven," the Bolivian Interior Minister Alfredo Rada told Erbol radio that the U.S.'s recognition of progress did not change his government's view that the US drugs policy was "unilateral and colonialist."

Venezuela Attorney General Responds

Isaias Rodriguez, Venezuela's Attorney General, dismissed the U.S. drug report during a press conference on Tuesday, stating that Venezuelan drug interdiction efforts had increase substantially in the past year. As an example he mentioned that his office had presented 10,147 accusations of drug trafficking between 2001 and the first quarter of 2007. Also, the number of resolved cases had increased by 71% during that time. A total of 204 tons of illicit drugs had been incinerated.

Rodriguez pointed out that the U.S. report contradicts a recent report of the UN Office against Drugs and Crime, which states that Venezuela is the country with the third highest rate of drug interdiction in the world.

The only reason sanctions against Venezuela were suspended, said Rodriguez with obvious sarcasm, was because otherwise "democratic organizations" would no longer receive U.S. funding. "The groups that receive dirty money from the U.S. do it to put the brakes on the process of change and transformation that Venezuela has sovereignly decided to exercise," added Rodriguez.

For Rodriguez, the U.S. government has a "psychotic" relationship with Venezuela and lies because "They know that they are exposed to our process of change that … promotes multilateralism and that will put an end to the polarization that the U.S. has maintained as the police force of the world."