Caracas, Venezuela, June 26, 2006 —Venezuela’s director of the National Anti-Drug Office (ONA), Luis Correa, said today that an agreement has been reached between Venezuela and the U.S. to re-start cooperation on fighting drug trafficking. The agreement will be signed between the ONA and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on July 8.
“The points in which we had differences between the DEA, or the North American government and the Venezuelan, have been solved. Both countries are in agreement about the new work paper,” said Correa.
Venezuela had suspended its cooperation with the U.S. last year, when President Chavez accused the DEA of engaging in unauthorized activity in Venezuela, of spying, and of over-stepping its bounds in its work. He had said the DEA would be expelled from Venezuela. U.S. officials denied the charges at the time.
However, during a press conference in Washington today, DEA administrator Karen Tandy clarified that the threat to expel the DEA was never implemented and that the DEA continued to operate in Venezuela without interruption. “While President Chavez announced through the papers his intent to expel DEA, he withdrew that shortly afterward and has been, through his counternarcotics officials, working with DEA on a memorandum of understanding that we could execute together as to how we will work together in that country,” said Tandy.
The new drug control agreement will be signed by Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior and of justice, Jesse Chacon, and the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield.
In September of last year, the U.S. officially “decertified” Venezuela as a country that lives up to its international obligations in the fight against drug trafficking. Venezuela, though, pointed out at the time that its drug interdictions have increased substantially since Chavez came into office. Drug interdictions increased from 43 tons in 2004 to 72 tons in 2005. Police estimate that 300 tons of cocaine pass through Venezuela per year.
The decertification normally means a cut-off of all U.S. aid to a country. However, the Bush administration decided to waive this consequence 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.”
According to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. government provides over $5 million per year to mostly opposition groups in Venezuela.