Caracas, Venezuela, August 22, 2006 —Venezuela expressed doubts about signing a new anti-drug smuggling cooperation agreement with the US on Monday, in light of the decision by the US to create a new intelligence division specifically to manage activities in Venezuela and Cuba.
Jesse Chacón, the Minister for the Interior and Justice, said that the accord currently being drawn up would have to be reviewed after the public statement of John Negroponte, US Director of National Intelligence last Friday,
“Following the most recent statements by the United States, we have to analyze whether or not it makes sense for us to sign that accord, I think we have to re-evaluate all the accords that we could sign with the US,” he said, adding, “If we are going to have an entire intelligence structure aimed at Venezuela, DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] agents are intelligence agents”.
A previous cooperation agreement between the two governments collapsed in August 2005 when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez accused US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents of spying. He has since said he wants an agreement that precludes these agents taking part in operations on Venezuelan territory.
Chácon alluded to that on Monday when he said, “They were operating in our country and it wasn’t precisely the narco-traffickers they were watching. Instead they were watching Venezuelan government officials.”
Much of the Cocaine headed for the US from Colombia is smuggled over the land border to Venezuela and leaves through Simón Bolívar Airport, just outside of Caracas.
Washington claimed last year that Venezuelan help in the “War on Drugs” had been inadequate. However, the US State department’s own figures contradict this charge: drug seizures in Venezuela were up 58% between 2004 and 2005 and the progress continues this year up 30% on 2005 already. Chacón said this was due to Venezuela’s ongoing partnerships with Colombian and other international anti-drugs agencies.
This is the second time during the current discussions over a new agreement that actions of the Bush administration have disrupted negotiations with the DEA. In July earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a resolution claiming Venezuela was failing to secure airport facilities against drug trafficking. This, at a time when French, Spanish and British officials praised Venezuelan efforts in the “War against Drugs.”
The Venezuelan government says US intelligence agents are and have been involved in all kinds of clandestine activities in the country. “They did their work for the coup d’état [brief overthrow of Chávez in 2002]. They did their work for the referendum and we defeated them, and this December [Presidential elections] we will defeat them again, whether they want to go via the electoral route or whether they want to go the violent route,” said Chácon.
The US denies this and a spokesperson for the US embassy in Caracas said they have been prepared to sign a counter-narcotics agreement since last year, “We will look forward to receiving a concrete proposal on a signing date convenient for both sides”. He also said that upon signing the agreement substantial funds would be available to help Venezuela combat narco-trafficking, something they had been missing out on since the suspension of the old accord.