Venezuela Navy Seizes Massive Drug Shipment in Joint Operation

As tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela over anti-narcotics efforts continues, authorities from Venezuela and French Guiana seized 3.3 U.S. tons of cocaine aboard a ship 400 miles east of Trinidad and Tobago.

Aug 22, 2005 ( Authorities from Venezuela and French Guiana seized 3.3 U.S. tons of cocaine aboard a Venezuelan-flagged fishing boat 400 miles east of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean sea, according to the Associated Press.

The Venezuelan Navy worked in cooperation with the French Guiana Navy, resulting in the detention of nine crew members, including eight Venezuelans and one Peruvian.

Crewmembers aboard the Don Matilde ship, attempted to unload thecocaine packages into the sea when the authorities approached theirboat.

According to officials, investigators had been following the drug shipment for three days.

According to the Venezuelan government, drug seizures in Venezuela have increased significantly during the current administration of President Hugo Chavez, and surpass those of previous governments.

However, a highly publicized dispute has erupted recently between the governments of Venezuela and the United States about their efforts to control drug trafficking in Venezuela. President Chavez accused U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials operating in Venezuela, of spying and of over-stepping their authority. U.S. officials rejected the accusations, charging instead that Venezuela was not cooperating well with DEA agents.

Last Monday, Venezuelan Vice-President José Vicente Rangel said that his country 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.

Last week, as efforts are being done to resolve the dispute, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter urged U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to put a stop on his recent negative comments about Venezuela.

"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," Specter said.

Last week, Secretary Rumsfeld embarked in a three-day tour of Latin America in an attempt to gather support against the growing influence of Venezuela’s Chavez, twice-elected leftist leader whom the U.S. government describes as "a negative force in the region".