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Venezuela Calls Visit of U.S. Drug Czar 'Useless'

By Elvia Gómez, El Universal (Centrist), Caracas, Venezuela, September 2, 2008

Spanish authorities seized 2.5 tons of cocaine on Aug. 6 upon intercepting the Venezuelan-flagged Rio Manzanares in the Atlantic just as its five crew members were about to deliver the drugs to another ship operated by a suspected Spanish drug-trafficking gang. (Photo: Desiree Martin / AFP-Getty Images)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Venezuela, on behalf of the government of President Hugo Chávez, released a statement on Sunday to reject "the recurring hostile statements" by United States officials. Venezuela also accused John P. Walters, the director of the national drug control policy, of aiming "to impose as mandatory" his visit to Venezuela.

Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported on Aug. 26 that the Venezuelan government denied Walters a visa request to visit Venezuela and sent him a letter claiming that Chávez's government would let him know when it was ready to welcome him. Then, they would process the visa application.

"The fight against drugs in Venezuela has registered significant progress over the past years, particularly since the Bolivarian government ended the official cooperation program with the US Drug Enforcement Agency," reads the Venezuelan official statement issued on Sunday.

President Chávez suspended Venezuela's cooperation agreements with the Drug Enforcement Agency in August 2005 and accused the agency of "supporting drug trafficking." However, in July 2008, during a short meeting with Ambassador Patrick Duddy, in the Palace of Miraflores, the seat of the Venezuelan government, Chávez ratified his willingness to resume antidrug cooperation with Washington. United States authorities were willing to reestablish cooperation links.

However, in the Foreign Ministry statement, the Venezuelan government reaffirmed its accusations against the D.E.A. and pointed out that "it is a body that operated in a criminal way in Venezuelan territory, both when it committed crimes with drug lords during controlled delivery operations, as well as when it openly plotted against the democratic and constitutional order in Venezuela."

The statement refers to the Bush administration's drug czar: "This US official who has publicly demonstrated hostility and hatred towards the Venezuelan political leadership and towards its people, recently pretended to impose as mandatory a visit to Venezuela." The statement says later that the Bolivarian government considered that such a visit "would be useless and inopportune," believing that this official would make better use of his time by controlling the increasing flow of traffic and consumption of drugs in his own country."

"After analyzing the balance of John P. Walters, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the US, who pretends to attribute his failure to the alleged lack of cooperation of some countries in the region, the outlook is particularly distressing," says the official statement

Last week, Walters said to Reuters that the government of President Chávez has not done enough to stop Venezuela from being overrun by drug cartels. Walters said that drug gangs now move about 250 tons of cocaine a year through Venezuela, almost a five-fold increase in the last four years, mainly for shipping to the growing European market. "You do not see anyone arrested, you do not see an active effort against corruption," he said.

Walters added that Washington had detailed reports about drug trafficking routes and plans. "Venezuela has an air force; it has a radar; it has trained military … It can stop drug smuggling on air flights. That's what they need to do."

Translated by Gerardo Cárdenas.

From El Universal.

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