Venezuela Proposes New Anti-Drug Trafficking Agreement to the U.S.

During a TV interview, Interior Minister Jesse Chacon renewed a proposal to the U.S., that Venezuela would be willing to re-start its cooperation in fighting drugs, as long as all police operations are undertaken by Venezuelan officials. This type of agreement is already in place with all other countries involved in drug control in Venezuela.

Caracas, Venezuela, October 3, 2005—The Venezuelan Minister of the Interior, Jesse Chacón, reiterated a proposal to the U.S. for renewing cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking this weekend. The core of the proposal says that Venezuelan officials must carry out all drug control operations. “No exceptions can exist,” said Chacón about this requirement.

Two weeks ago Venezuela had presented the US embassy in Caracas with a document outlining how US-Venezuelan counter narcotic relations might be repaired after their recent split. Cooperation on this issue was ended when the Venezuelan government restricted the operations of the officers of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The decision to limit the activities of the DEA agents came after allegations that they were spying on the government and undermining the sovereignty of Venezuela.

Jesse Chacon has said that his proposal would allow DEA officers to operate as long as they respect Venezuelan laws. Venezuela seeks more "active cooperation" from the US in the fight against drugs, asserted Chacón, but he would not tolerate any more "violation of Venezuelan sovereignty." The DEA must follow the same rules that all other countries that co-operate with Venezuela follow, such as Spain and France.

Kevin Whitaker, Deputy Chief of the US Mission in Caracas has said that the embassy will analyze the proposal to see if serious negotiations can begin.

In August, Chacon had said that the DEA was using its immunity from prosecution under Venezuelan law and other special resources to harm Venezuelan sovereignty. A little later, President Hugo Chavez alleged some DEA agents were involved in drug trafficking themselves and that some had been spying on the Venezuelan government. He said in a meeting in New York in September, "We had to break the agreement with the DEA, not because we wanted to, but because we discovered the DEA was involved in espionage and illegal operations in Venezuela."

In return, the US government has accused the Venezuelan authorities of being corrupt and refused US visas to several senior officials on this basis.

A few weeks ago the US decertified, or removed, Venezuela from a list of countries that actively combat the drugs trade. This happened even though last year the American government praised Venezuela for its efforts in controlling drug trafficking. According to the Venezuelan Office of the Vice-President, this year so far Venezuelan counter narcotic efforts have seized 59 tons of drugs and 72 tons of precursor chemicals, used to make drugs. This is a serious improvement on last year and is part of a trend of increased drug seizures that have been taking place over the past several years.