Caracas, Venezuela, September 16, 2005—In reaction to the announcement that the U.S. would decertify Venezuela’s cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking, Venezuela’s Vice-President José Vicente Rangel said that this is not about drug trafficking, but an effort to decertify Venezuela politically. “
Yesterday, State Department official Nicholas Burns made the announcement. According to U.S. President Bush, Venezuela and Burma are the only two countries in the world that “have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counter-narcotics agreements.” The President’s statement lists 20 countries as being major drug transit or drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.
Vice-President Rangel denied that Venezuela was not doing enough to combat drug trafficking. “It is completely false,” said Rangel, “like never before have drugs been confiscated in Venezuela … For the first time in the history of this country is the fight against drugs taken up as a matter of state policy and witnesses are governments such as those of Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, Spain, which are absolutely identified and recognize the support Venezuela has given in the fight against narco-trafficking.”
In an official statement Rangel’s office released today, he also said, “Already last year 43 tons of drugs were captured, a fact for which Venezuela was congratulated by the U.S. government itself. And for this year, until September, 59 tons of drugs and 72 tons of precursor chemicals have been confiscated. But none of this counts because what is of importance to the U.S. government is the political decertification of Venezuela in the function of future aggressions.”
The decision to decertify Venezuela would normally mean a cut-off of all U.S. aid. However, the Bush administration decided to waive this consequence in Venezuela’s case because, “support for programs to aid Venezuela’s democratic institutions, establish selected community development projects, and strengthen Venezuela’s political party system is vital to the national interests of the United States.”
Venezuela’s government has complained for a long time now that the Bush administration is funding opposition groups in Venezuela, to the tune of over $5 million per year, mostly via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Last week, the NED decided to provide a grant of $107,200 to the oppositional group Súmate (Join up), which was instrumental in the organization of last year’s recall referendum against President Chavez. The grant is supposed to “strengthen democratic processes in Venezuela.”
The rupture over Venezuela’s cooperation with U.S. drug control efforts began earlier this year, when Interior Minister Jesse Chacon accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of using its offices and special privileges of infringing on Venezuelan sovereignty. Later, Chavez announced that his government would cancel all cooperation with the DEA and said that his government also suspected DEA agents of spying on his government and said that DEA agents were themselves involved in drug trafficking.
The U.S. government denied these accusations and said instead that Venezuelan cooperation had been declining recently.
Venezuelan government officials repeatedly pointed out that drug interdiction has more than doubled during Chavez’s presidency compared to previous presidents and that early in the year it was foreseeable that the Bush administration would decertify Venezuela’s fight against drug trafficking for purely political reasons, which have nothing to do with Venezuela’s fight against drugs.