The government of President Hugo Chavez got slammed twice in a week by the US government, first on human rights and then on drugs. No surprise there. President Chavez and other barking Bolivarian burrocrats immediately condemned the US administration, and Chavez once again voiced doubts about President Barack Obama (son of Dubya?)
Following are some excerpts of the State Department’s drug report card on Venezuela – which scored an F:
*Venezuela remains a major drug-transit country with high-levels of corruption and a weak judicial system. Growing illicit drug trans-shipments through Venezuela are enabled by Venezuela’s lack of international counternarcotics cooperation.
*Venezuela refuses to cooperate on almost all bilateral counternarcotics issues, rejecting U.S. criticism and accusing the U.S. Government (USG) of complicity with drug trafficking organizations.
*Venezuela is one of the principal drug-transit countries in the Western Hemisphere. The majority of illicit drugs transiting Venezuela are destined for the U.S. and Europe. Drug trafficking in Venezuela has increased five-fold since 2002, from 50 MT to an estimated 250 MT in 2007.
*In September 2008, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated two senior Venezuelan government officials, Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, and the former Justice and Interior Minister, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, as “Tier II Kingpins” for materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC.
*Members of Venezuelan security forces often facilitate or are themselves involved in drug trafficking, particularly the special counternarcotics units of the National Guard and the Federal Investigative Police (CICPC).
*Venezuelan security forces routinely take bribes in exchange for facilitating drug shipments, and seizures are most likely to occur when payoffs have not been made. Even when seizures occur, the drugs are not always turned over intact for disposal, and seized cocaine is sometimes returned to drug traffickers.
Illicit narcotics are smuggled from Venezuela to the principal markets in the U.S. and Europe in maritime cargo containers, fishing vessels, go-fast boats, and private aircraft taking off from clandestine airstrips.
Illicit narcotics destined for the U.S. from Venezuela are shipped through the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Central America, Mexico, and other Caribbean countries.
Narcotics destined for Europe are shipped directly to several countries in Europe, especially Spain, or are shipped through the eastern coastal waters of Venezuela and the Caribbean to West Africa, notably Guinea and Guinea Bissau.
Clandestine flights departing Venezuela are another means of transporting cocaine shipments to West Africa. Multi-kilogram shipments of cocaine and heroin are also mailed through express delivery services to the United States.
Between January and June 2008, the U.S. estimates that 116 MT of cocaine transited Venezuela: 28 MT via maritime routes and 87 MT via air, according to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South.
Drug traffickers routinely exploit a variety of routes and methods to move hundreds of tons of illegal drugs on the Pan-American Highway, the Mata and Orinoco Rivers, the Guajira Peninsula, and dozens of clandestine airstrips.
Venezuelan traffickers have been arrested in the Netherlands, Spain, Ghana, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, and other countries.
The movement of drugs continues to compound Venezuela’s corruption problem, and increase the level of crime and violence throughout the country.
Whether due to security forces’ weakness, lack of will, or corruption, Venezuela has effectively lost control of large portions of western Venezuela, abutting Colombia, to narcotrafficking organizations, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The FARC’s ability to operate freely in this portion of Venezuela facilitates its well-established involvement in narcotrafficking. Venezuelan police and prosecutors do not receive sufficient training or equipment to properly carry out counternarcotics investigations. Without effective criminal prosecutions, and with the politicization of investigations and corruption, the public has little faith in the judicial system.
The USG assesses that Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary organizations, including two designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), conduct drug trafficking operations in Venezuelan territory, often using local traffickers to coordinate transportation and logistics.
The FARC and ELN often cross into Venezuela to facilitate trafficking activities, for rest and relaxation, and to evade Colombian security forces, often with the collusion of some elements of the Venezuelan security forces.
The USG-funded Container Inspection Facility (CIF) at Puerto Cabello remains unused by the GOV, despite the fact that the USG estimates that the majority of narcotics from Colombia transit the Tachira-Puerto Cabello corridor and other parts of the northern coast.
Completed in late 2006, the CIF was intended to provide a venue and equipment (forklifts, tools, and safety equipment) for Venezuelan authorities to unload and examine containers in a safe and protected environment.
The Autonomous Port Institute of Puerto Cabello (IPAPC) expropriated and now controls access to the unused facility.