Thursday, July 16, 2009

From Petrostate to Narcostate: Venezuela under Chavez

Courtesy of PMB I got these three articles which are quite the indictment on Chavez regime, from his corruption to his support on Honduras. Draw your own conclusions.

One entry from the WSJ: U.S. Slams Caracas on Drugs

Another one from the Financial Time: Venezuela accused of corruption in drugs fight

And if you feel that these two papers are too biased from the right, you can turn to center left El Pais accusation from Spain who PMB kindly translated and which I paste below.

El País | Madrid (Unofficial translation)

Narco trafficking penetrates Venezuela

A US Congress report describes the birth of a ‘narcostate’ in that Caribbean nation – Since 2004 cocaine exportation has quadrupled

ANTONIO CAÑO - Washington – 16 July 2009

A United States Congress report warns of strong narcotraffic penetration into Venezuela, with a very significant increase in drug exportation volume and of complicity in that business by high civilian and military officials of the régime, who collaborate with and protect the Colombian guerrillas and criminal organizations. In substance, this report, which will be disclosed at the end of this month, describes the birth of a narcostate in Venezuela.

According to this investigation, that country has become the main distribution center for cocaine produced in Colombia and the main port of embarkation for this product aimed especially at markets in the United States and Spain. “A high level of corruption inside the Venezuelan Government, Army and other law enforcement forces have contributed to the creation of this climate of permissiveness,” thus assures the report, whose content EL PAÍS has been able to access.

“The findings of this report have heightened my concern that Venezuela’s refusal to cooperate with the United States on drug interdiction is due to existing corruption in that country’s Government,” thus affirms Senator Richard Lugar, the highest ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who entrusted the preparation of this document to the General Accountability Office (GAO) that reports to Congress, in an effort to confirm information from the State Department concerning the increase in narcotraffic in Venezuela.

Lugar considers that, following this investigation, “this at least requires a comprehensive review of United States policy toward Venezuela,” and suggests similar measures for “other countries affected” by this situation.

From 2004 until 2007, the amount of cocaine produced in Colombia and shipped from Venezuela has more than quadrupled, going from 60 tons per year to 260 tons per year. According to the report, these figures represent 17% of all the cocaine produced in the world in 2007. “After entering Venezuela,” the document relates, “the cocaine usually leaves the country aboard aircraft that take off and land at hundreds of clandestine airports.”

United States security agencies detected 178 flights, originating from Venezuelan airports in 2007, suspected of transporting drugs, compared to the 109 that had been spotted in 2004. During this same period, cocaine flights from Colombia had been practically eliminated, thanks to drug enforcement programs developed jointly by that country and the United States.

In other words, since the year 2004, Venezuela has in fact displaced the cocaine traffic formerly generated in neighboring Colombia. This has been accomplished, according to the report, thanks to the close collaboration between the Venezuelan Armed Forces and the Colombian guerillas, heavily involved in the business.

“According to members of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) interrogated by the Colombian government, Venezuelan government officials, including members of the National Guard, have received bribes meant to facilitate the passage of cocaine from the Colombian border area,” thus assures the document from the United States Congress.

“The corruption within the National Guard,” adds the report, “represents the most significant threat, given that the Guard reports directly to President Hugo Chávez and controls Venezuela’s borders, airports and seaports.”

The report, prepared between August of 2008 and the current month of July, includes actions the Venezuelan government has taken in recent years to destroy clandestine airports and drug caches, but warns that it is difficult to weigh the validity of this information given that United States participation in drug enforcement in Venezuela, which was intense up until 2004, has practically disappeared now.

Some officials of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) still continue to work in Venezuela, but the document from Congress assures that their work is marginal: “They say they continue to meet informally with the Venezuelans in charge, but these meeting are generally meant more to maintain communications than to discuss substantial matters of cooperation.”

According to the report, the United States has made some efforts to resume that collaboration, especially stemming from the meeting, in April, at the Trinidad and Tobago summit, between Chávez and United States President Barack Obama. One of those steps has been to invite Venezuela’s Prosecutor General to visit Washington to discuss diverse antidrug initiatives, but the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Relations has not yet granted permission for that trip.

United States aid in the fight against drugs in Venezuela, which was almost 11 million dollars in 2003, has been reduced to less than two million in 2008. “Despite all the efforts, cooperation continues to decline,” thus concludes the document.

The report from the United States Congress mentions Spain as the principal destination outside of the Americas for flights originating in Venezuela. On that continent, the main routes toward the United States are through Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and other countries in Central America and the Caribbean.

In Mexico, the drug coming from Venezuela ends up in the hands of gangs who have control of this activity in that country. Elsewhere, the shipments frequently do not reach land, but are tossed into the sea, where they are picked up by ships that carry on with the shipping.

-The end-

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