Venezuela Rejects US Charge about Failure to Enforce Anti-Drug Agreements

The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington released a statement today, strongly rejecting what it is says is a “politicized” report released by the White House yesterday.

Caracas, Venezuela, September 19, 2006—The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington released a statement today, strongly rejecting what it is says is a “politicized” report released by the White House yesterday that puts Venezuela, alongside Burma, as a country that has, “failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to…[its] obligations under international counter-narcotics agreements.”

The statement from the embassy severely criticizes the Bush administration, which it said, “consciously continues to practice a policy of substituting facts by unfounded statements, driven by simple political differences, the explicit purpose of which is to isolate Venezuela.” It then goes on to cite public comments by government officials of four countries – Colombia, Britain, Spain and France – that have praised Venezuela’s efforts to combat the drugs trade.

In particular, A British government minister had said that Venezuela had shown “tremendous cooperation” in the fight against drugs. This was as recently as September 3, 2006. Britain is normally very close to the US on international issues.

The Venezuelan National Assembly, in 2005, passed the Law against Organized Crime and the Law against the Trafficking and Consumption of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances. This, according to the embassy statement, was evidence that law enforcement agencies were being provided with the “tools to fight the production, trafficking, and use of illegal drugs.” It also said that 35.6 tons of cocaine had been seized this year alone and 510 people “detained” for drugs offences.

Earlier this month the National Guard confiscated more than a ton of cocaine at Maquetía International Airport (Caracas), which was to be smuggled to Spain. The operation involved co-operation with drug enforcement officials from Spain and France. And the US State department’s own figures contradict the charge that Venezuela isn’t doing enough. It says drug seizures in Venezuela were up 58% between 2004 and 2005 and they are up by a third on that figure this year already.

Venezuela and the US are currently in bilateral negotiations to agree joint cooperation on counter-narcotics policy. The embassy statement suggested that that agreement would be under threat if the Bush administration continued to politicize an issue that was of “great importance to the world.”

This is the second time in a month that Venezuela has threatened to withdraw from these negotiations. In August, Venezuelan Ministry of the Interior, Jesse Chacón said they would “re-evaluate all accords with the US.” This came after John Negroponte, US Director of National Intelligence, announced a new Venezuela and Cuba intelligence division. Chacón suggested there was an overlap between CIA agents and Drugs Enforcement Agency personnel.

The White House report also recommends that US funding of opposition groups should continue as it was in the US “national interest”. Normally, if a country is deemed not to be fulfilling its international obligations with respect to drug trafficking, the US government suspends aid such as this.

Elsewhere in the report the Bush administration praises Canada’s and Ecuador’s efforts, while criticizing Afghanistan. For Bolivia there was a mixed bag: the “zero cocaine but not zero coca” policy of the government on Evo Morales concentrated too much on “interdiction,” or prohibition, rather than “eradication and alternative development,” the report said. But it did praise Bolivia’s interdiction initiatives which had been successful in seizing substantial quantities of cocaine.

The report also listed the “major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries” in the world. They are Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

The full text of the Venezuelan Embassy’s statement:

Statement of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: White House Politicizes the War on Drugs

With respect to the conclusions of the Bush administration’s “Annual Report on the Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2007,” the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela states the following:

1. Venezuela denounces the continued politicization of important bilateral issues by the U.S. State Department. The Bush administration consciously continues to practice a policy of substituting facts by unfounded statements, driven by simple political differences, the explicit purpose of which is to isolate Venezuela.

2. Venezuela has been praised by the international community for its active and effective cooperation in the fight against the production, trafficking, and use of illegal drugs:

a. Colombia: “It doesn’t matter where that violence comes from, whether it is from the FARC, the ELN, paramilitaries, or drug dealers. Here we are telling you that neither Venezuela nor Colombia will waiver in the response” to their attacks. (Colombian Minister of Defense, Jose Manuel Santos, September 1, 2006)
b. United Kingdom: Government spokesperson and Minister for the Middle East, Kim Howells, was largely very positive about Venezuela’s efforts to fight drugs, saying it shows “tremendous cooperation” in combating the international drug trade. (September 3, 2006)
c. Spain: “The Spanish Ministry of Interior sent a communication thanking Venezuela for the operation conducted. The Venezuelan authorities at the Venezuelan International Airport are efficient in registering and detaining individuals that could be transporting drugs.” (Charge d’Affairs of the Embassy of Spain in Venezuela, Ignacio Aguirre, September 5, 2006)
d. France: “France has always counted on the support of Venezuelan authorities in the fight against drugs. We have intense cooperation between the Law Enforcement Attaché at our embassy and the National Anti-Drug Office.” (Attaché at the Embassy of France in Venezuela, September 5, 2006)

3. Presently, a cooperation agreement between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and its Venezuelan counterpart is pending. This agreement will allow a positive and constructive relationship between the two countries in the war on drugs. Baseless accusations, such as those contained in the Bush administration’s report, will not help finalize an agreement as important as this one.

4. This year, Venezuela has confiscated 35,600 kilograms of illegal drugs. During this same period, 510 individuals have been detained for drug-related crimes. In 2005, the National Assembly passed the Law Against Organized Crime and the Law Against the Trafficking and Consumption of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, both of which provide law enforcement agencies with additional tools to fight the production, trafficking, and use of illegal drugs. Similarly, the Government of Venezuela has implemented a pilot law enforcement program along the country’s southwestern border whose objective is to prevent and prosecute drug-related crimes.

5. The explicit indication that the Bush administration will continue to fund opposition groups under the guise of “strengthening democracy” makes it apparent that they are more preoccupied with regime change than they are with fighting drug trafficking. Venezuela rejects without qualification or reservation the imposition of penalties by one country, the United States, which seeks to act like the world’s judge, jury and executioner.

6. Venezuela will continue its aggressive and successful efforts to fight the war on drugs with its neighbors and members of international community. We hope that United Stated will join us in this fight in a serious way, rather than using it as propaganda tool. The politicization of an issue that should be managed in a technical manner and that is of great importance to the world does not help the one country, the United States that belong to the countries experiencing the highest rates of consumption of illicit drugs, according to the 2006 UN world report on drugs.

Washington DC, September 18, 2006