Aug 19, 2005 (VenezuelAnalysis.com).- U.S. Republican Senator Arlen Specter urged U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to put a stop on negative comments about Venezuela at a time in which the U.S. State Department is trying to resolve the recent controversy between the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Venezuelan anti-narcotics officials.
On Tuesday, during a visit to Paraguay, Rumsfeld told reporters that "there certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways."
Profound political disagreements between Bolivian indigenous and labor groups and the government have resulted in the resignation of two Presidents in as many years. The second occurred in June. U.S. officials have suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has provided economic support for those groups, which the U.S. labels as anti-democratic forces. One of the leaders of the indigenous protestors is Bolivian Congressman Evo Morales, who has met with Chavez several times.
Senator Specter, who is a member of the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. Congress, met this week with Venezuelan officials and President Chavez in Caracas to discuss his committee’s oversight of US anti-drug trafficking and anti-terrorism policies.
In a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld, Specter said "it may be very helpful to U.S. efforts to secure Venezuela’s cooperation in our joint attack on drug interdiction if the rhetoric would be reduced."
According to Specter, there is a window of opportunity at this time to resolve the disagreement on drug interdiction policies.
The governments of Venezuela and the U.S. have gotten into a dispute recently about their efforts to control drug trafficking in Venezuela. Chavez accused the DEA of spying and of over-stepping its authority while working in Venezuela. U.S. officials rejected the accusations, charging instead that Venezuela was not cooperating well with DEA agents.
"Our meeting produced an agreement between our Ambassador and Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior, who had not previously had any contact, to meet early next week to try to resolve those differences between DEA and the Venezuelan narcotics officials," Specter said.
Venezuela’s Vice-President José Vicente Rangel announced last Monday that Venezuela would no longer give diplomatic immunity to DEA agents in Venezuela, and that it might deny visas to U.S. citizens. According to the Vice-President, this decision is in reaction to a move by the U.S. government to revoke visas of six Venezuelan National Guard members who were in charge of combating drug trafficking.
Finally, Senator Specter told Secretary Rumsfeld it may be helpful to, "at least, have a moratorium on adverse comments on Venezuela."
On Wednesday, U.S. Congressman José Serrano also criticized Rumsfeld’s recent statements, saying that “it is time for these false statements and innuendos to stop."
Rumsfeld was in a three-day tour of Latin America in an attempt to counteract the growing influence in Latin America of Venezuela’s Chavez, whom the U.S. government describes as "a negative force in the region". This is Rumsfeld’s third trip to Latin America in just 10 months.
The New York Times characterized Rumsfeld’s visit to
The content of the letter by Senator Specter to Secretary Rumsfeld is reproduced below:
|United States Senate|
Committee on the Judiciary
Washington, DC 20510-6275
August 19, 2005
The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld,
I have just noted your comments about Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez in a speech you made yesterday in Peru.
I suggest it may be very helpful to U.S. efforts to secure Venezuela’s cooperation in our joint attack on drug interdiction if the rhetoric would be reduced, especially at this time, when DEA and our State Department are trying to resolve a highly publicized controversy between DEA and Venezuelan narcotics officials.
On Wednesday of this week, I met with President Chavez in Caracas as part of a trip on Judiciary Committee oversight to evaluate our drug interdiction and terrorism policies, and to prepare legislation on immigration. I believe there is a window of opportunity at this time to resolve the disagreement on drug interdiction policies.
Our meeting produced an agreement between our Ambassador and Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior, who had not previously had any contact, to meet early next week to try to resolve those differences between DEA and the Venezuelan narcotics officials. In this context, it may well be helpful to, at least, have a moratorium on adverse comments on Venezuela.