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Latin America: US Accuses Venezuela of "Colluding" with Cocaine Trade

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #520)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Drug control policy was the arena where the often acrimonious relations between the US and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez played out this week, with Washington accusing Venezuela of colluding with cocaine traffickers, and Caracas vehemently denying that was the case. Chávez, meanwhile, this week added to the mix by announcing that he chewed coca every day.

The controversy got rolling Sunday in Bogota, when, after finishing a meeting with Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, American drug czar John Walters came out swinging at Venezuela. Chávez, he said, had failed to get rid of corrupt officials or deny traffickers the use of Venezuelan territory.

"It goes beyond 'I can't do it' to 'I won't do it'. And 'I won't do it' means that 'I am colluding,'" Walters said in remarks reported by the BBC. "I think it is about time to face up to the fact that President Chávez is becoming a major facilitator of the transit of cocaine to Europe and other parts of this hemisphere."

Just to make sure his point was getting across, Walters repeated it in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Where are the big seizures, where are the big arrests of individuals who are at least logistical coordinators? When it's being launched from controlled airports and seaports, where are the arrests of corrupt officials? At some point here, this is tantamount to collusion," Walters said.

The charge comes after the US government last fall named Venezuela as one of two governments world-wide that had failed to live up to US drug policy objectives and more than two years after Chávez ordered a halt to all cooperation with the DEA in Venezuela, charging that the agency was violating Venezuelan sovereignty.

Venezuela was quick to respond to Walters. At a Caracas press conference Tuesday, Néstor Reverol, head of the National Anti-Drug Office, said that Venezuela had been very busy fighting the cocaine trade, having seized more than 50 tons of drugs last year, busted 11 cocaine labs, identified 186 airstrips, and arrested more than 4,000 people.

Reverol said Washington should "stop using the fight against drugs as a political weapon" and added that his government would sue the US a the Organization of American States (OAS) over its "belligerence" and "baseless charges" about Venezuela's drug-fighting efforts.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS Jorge Valero followed-up with a speech to the OAS Permanent Council charging that US drug policy is "immoral and interventionist."

The DEA, he said, had monitored drug runs inside Venezuela without notifying Venezuelan authorities, a violation of national sovereignty. "The DEA encourages the interference of the US government in other countries' domestic affairs by hiding behind the excuse of anti-drug cooperation," Valero charged. "Venezuela is not going back to be a colony of any empire. Venezuela is a free sovereign country and claims the right to develop its own anti-drug policies. It should be known that Venezuela is doing it successfully."

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald breathlessly reported Sunday that Chávez had said in a recent speech that he used coca every day and that Bolivian President Evo Morales sent it to him. ''I chew coca every day in the morning... and look how I am,'' he is seen saying on a video of the speech, as he shows his biceps to the audience. Just as Fidel Castro ''sends me Coppelia ice cream and a lot of other things that regularly reach me from Havana,'' Bolivian President Morales "sends me coca paste... I recommend it to you."

While Chávez said "coca paste," which is typically smoked, it seems clear that he was referring to coca leaf, which is chewed.

The Herald and several experts it consulted worried that Chávez had admitted committing an illegal act and even violating the UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which bans coca. One expert even worried that Chávez had named Morales as a "narco trafficker." But neither Chávez nor Morales seem as worried as the Herald and its experts.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

As they say in Afghanistan, "Old, very old." So what. The man chews coca. I drink tea and coffee. About the same thing at the leaf stage. To hell with the fools. Coca(as well as pot) will be around a long time after the USofA is nothing but a footnote in the history books.

Fri, 01/25/2008 - 5:26pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

January 25, 2008
A CounterPunch Special Investigation
How the CIA Inflitrated the DEA
Operation Two-Fold


The DEA and its predecessor federal drug law enforcement organizations have always been infiltrated and, to varying degrees, managed by America's intelligence agencies. The reason is simple enough: the US Government has been protecting its drug smuggling allies, especially in organized crime, since trafficking was first criminalized in 1914. Since then drug law enforcement has been a function of national security in its broadest sense; not just protecting our aristocracy from foreign enemies, but preserving the Establishment's racial, religious and class prerogatives.

The glitch in the system is that while investigating traffickers, federal drug agents are always unearthing the Establishment's ties to organized crime and its proxy drug syndicates. US intelligence and security agencies recognized this problem early in the early 1920s and to protect their Establishment patrons (and foreign and domestic drug smuggling allies fighting communists), they dealt with the problem by suborning well-placed drug law enforcement managers and agents.

They have other means at their disposal as well. In 1998, for example, in a series of articles in the San Jose Mercury News, reporter Gary Webb claimed that the CIA had facilitated the flow of crack cocaine to street gangs in Los Angeles. After the Agency vehemently denied the allegations, Webb was denounced by the CIA's co-conspirators: the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. Frightened into submission by the growls of its biggers and betters, the Mercury News retracted Webb's story and sent the reporter into internal exile. The CIA's Inspector General later admitted that Webb was partially right. But being unjustly discredited is the price one pays for tearing the mask off the world's biggest drug trafficker.

Sat, 01/26/2008 - 2:32am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

24 Jan 2008, 11:03 PST, 1st Edition

"Fellas, do we really want Hillary to pick our next Administrator?", con't:

There can never be any serious discussion about race without mentioning the name Peter Probst. Many in our agency who are new have never heard his name. Probst is a white S/A who simply got tired of hearing his white managers and fellow S/As commonly use the 'N' word. On one occasion when a white S/A used the 'N' word in reference to an African American S/A Probst reported the white offender to his white manager who, according to some, used white agents in OPR to intimidate the black S/A into denying the white offender had used the word. With no confirmation from the weak-kneed, gutless and cowardly black agent -- who got neither moral support nor legal guidance from some of the older black males in DEA who also 'ran' from this incident like scared rabbits -- it turned out to be Probst who got punished. White resentment in this office against a white S/A who not only befriended a black but defended one soared. 'How dare a white agent speak out against another white agent!' was the charge against Probst who was eventually forced out of our agency. It took many many months for Probst to get his job back.

The Probst case taught a clear lesson to other whites in this agency who also objected to racism. We learned never to defend or protect a black agent when it came to a race issue because most of our blacks in DEA are Oreos with no real backbone who will almost instantly buckle under stress... maintaining the centuries old belief that black women bend over and black men run at the first sign of danger.

With the exception of Michelle, who some say wants to be considered half-white rather than half-black, our senior management remains its usual 'Whites Only Club'. Will this change if another Republican is elected this November? Probably not. Will things change if a Democrat is elected? Probably so. However, we can be sure that if Hillary is elected it will continue to be white females rather than black males who benefit. Hillary and her husband are clearly showing with each statement they make about Obama that they will not look kindly upon black males... and we still have yet to see any of our black males display any above-average or exeptionally distinguishable case work...

Sat, 01/26/2008 - 3:13am Permalink

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