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The Venezuela Connection

By Aleksander Boyd

London 21.04.06 | On April 11 2006, Mexican authorities seized 5.5 tonnes of high purity cocaine in Ciudad del Carmen's airport. On August 3 2005, Dutch tax authorities and the sea harbour police seized 4.6 tonnes of cocaine in Rotterdam, the largest ever haul in the Netherlands. On October 13 2005, Spanish police seized 3.5 tons of cocaine in a fishing boat bound for Spain. On September 16 2005, 691 kilograms of cocaine were seized in the Tuscan port of Livorno, Italy. On December 14 2004, 1.141 tonnes of cocaine were seized in two separate operations in Kenya, the largest ever seizure in Africa. On May 16 1999, a Saudi prince, Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz Al-Shaalan, smuggled 1.993 tonnes of cocaine into Paris on his personal aircraft under diplomatic immunity.

Aside from these major drug hauls, in most cases the greatest ever made in each of the countries, countless individuals have been arrested in European and North American airports for attempting to smuggle drugs. It is by no means coincidence that all the aforementioned cargos, huge or modest, originated in Venezuela; neither is it the periodicity of the apprehensions, which are in an ever augmenting curve.

Venezuela, under Hugo Chavez's tenure, has become, for all intents and purposes, a gangster's paradise. Drug traffickers, wanted terrorists and criminals seem to be able to live quite comfy under the lenient watch of a Venezuelan administration that has characterized itself for being totally immersed in the destruction of the country's institutions and international agreements to which it once formed part. As Chavez's savage political discourse rules the official agenda, measures destined to arrest activities of organized crime are nearing irrelevancy. For instance the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was kicked out of Venezuela on August 2005, under the spurious and unsubstantiated charges that its staff was a) spying and b) involved in drug trafficking, as denounced by Hugo Chavez himself. Since 1999, military and DEA over flights are forbidden in Venezuela. Arguing violations to the country's sovereignty, the president suspended monitoring of drug trade activities by US agencies.

Statistics reveal a correlation between Venezuela's lax policies vis-à-vis drug trafficking and the substantial increment of large seizures of narcotics by international authorities. It seems that the Chavez administration is hell bent in providing safe haven and support to Colombian narco-guerrillas, which some believe have succeeded the former cartels in the production, trans-shipment, international commercialization and related operational aspects of the drug trade. The capture in Caracas of FARC leader Rodrigo Granda on December 13 2004 shed light upon the rather cozy relationship between top guerrilla leaders and Venezuelan officials. Granda, who was granted Venezuelan citizenship by the present administration according to former president of Congress Cristóbal Fernández Daló, had been, at the time of capture, living in Venezuela for a while. His wife and step-daughter entered Venezuela thanks to the assistance and explicit orders of former Chavez's Minister of Interior, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín. It is worth bearing in mind that Colombia is, after the US, Venezuela's second largest commercial partner. That fact notwithstanding, Hugo Chavez brought diplomatic and commercial relationships to a halt over the capture of Granda.

As drug shipments originating in Venezuela are increasingly seized by law enforcement authorities the world over, governments would do well in re-examining the role that the Venezuelan State, its Executive, military and officials have on this issue. It can not be rationally argued that Venezuelan authorities are merely overwhelmed by a surge of drug trafficking activities, for for said activities to augment there must be a well-oiled operational mechanism, employing a great deal of people, behind it. Tonnes of drugs just not materialize in ports, secret hangars or abandoned airstrips across the country, much less in purportedly well manned international airports. Success in drug trafficking requires a level of official support, or at the very least, leniency from authorities. Hence my conclusion that many government officials from the Chavez administration are deeply involved.

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