In an annual exercise of US prerogative, the White House Monday released this year's Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2008. While the document listed 20 countries as major drug trafficking or producing countries, only two political enemies of the US, Myanmar and Venezuela, were listed as having "failed demonstrably" to live up to US demands about how they fight the drug trade.
Under the US Foreign Assistance Act, countries that fail to live up to US drug-fighting expectations are barred from many forms of US aid. But the US government can waive such a bar if it believes it is in its interests to do so.
The 20 countries on the "Majors List" are Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.
While Afghanistan now produces 93% of the world's opium supply, President Bush praised Afghan President Karzai for strongly attacking the drug trade. Similarly, although Mexico remains a major conduit for drugs coming into the US, aggressive drug war efforts by President Felipe Calderón kept it on the US' good side.
The US remains concerned about high-potency marijuana coming from Canada. The problem, Bush said, is that "growers do not consistently face strict legal punishment."
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the certification exercise was the certification of Bolivia despite longstanding and loudly-expressed US concerns over the Bolivian government's "zero cocaine, but not zero coca" policy. Calling Bolivian cooperation "uneven," the document noted that "the Bolivian government has cooperated closely on interdiction, and operations and seizures have reached record levels. The government is on track to reach 5,600 hectares of eradication this year, surpassing its goal of 5,000 hectares."
Still, the Bush administration worried that Bolivia has "focused primarily on interdiction, to the exclusion of its other essential complements, especially coca crop eradication." It called on Bolivia to "eliminate permissiveness in licit cultivation."
Venezuela, whose President Hugo Chávez is a major irritant to Washington, was decertified for the third year in a row, a move that appears to be tied primarily to Venezuela's refusal to allow the DEA to operate in the country, although Washington also cited corruption and lax enforcement.
The decertification of Venezuela would normally lead to sanctions in the form of reducing financial support to the country by half. However, citing "vital national interests," -- Venezuela is the fourth largest oil exporter to the US accounting for 1.1 to 1.5 million barrels per day -- the Bush administration said it would waive sanctions for a second year.
"The waiver allows us to continue to support some of their democratic institutions and their society," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counter-Narcotics, Christy McCampbell, told a press conference in Washington Monday.
The only reason for the waiver was to further subvert Venezuela, said Rodríguez. "The groups that receive dirty money from the US do it to put the brakes on the process of change and transformation that Venezuela has sovereignly decided to exercise," he said.