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Venezuela's break with the DEA: a dangerous game

By Veneconomy

23.08.05 | Originally posted 18.08.05 | Ten days ago the government of Hugo Chávez ended the cooperation agreement between the Venezuelan authorities and the DEA for fighting drug trafficking. With this decision, the government merely acknowledged something that had been brewing for quite some time. The only unexpected part was that the government apparently speeded up the break, in anticipation of the U.S. government’s announcement that it intended to ban six members of the National Guard’s Drug Enforcement Command from entering the United States, arguing their “little collaboration, complicity or obstruction” during joint operations.

If this is the case, the Venezuelan government came up with a way to counteract the blow from Washington and try to bend international opinion in its favor, by staging a theatrical break with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Some analysts say that the government had been looking for a way to get rid of the DEA for quite some time. There had been several warning signs that the Venezuelan government’s interest in cooperating with the U.S. in the drug war was waning. Among others, frequent breaches of agreements for fighting narcoterrorism and the split, since early this year, between the National Guard (NG) and the DEA. Then there was the mutual dislike and lack of trust between the DEA and General Frank Morgado, head of the NG’s Anti-drug Command and one of the officers who is barred from the United States.

Ever since the beginning of this year, there has been an increase in “moves” of officials who were diligent in backing the war on drugs. Among the most notorious we have: the sudden dismissal, without notice, of the President of the National Commission to Fight the Unlawful Use of Drugs (Conacuid), Mildred Camero; the splitting up of the team of professionals who worked at that agency; and the decapitation of the only operating unit that was still working in close collaboration with the DEA, when head CICPC inspector Juan de Castro was given his retirement orders.

This is what has led some people to believe that, when Chávez found out several weeks ago that the U.S. was planning on revoking the visas of senior NG officers, he saw his chance. The Venezuelan government set in motion an investigation of charges made in June, before the Fundamental Rights Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office, by two “informers” for the DEA, the NG and the CICPC, concerning irregularities, ranging from “illegal actions during raids to alleged disappearance of drugs.” For Venezuela the corollary to this investigation was President Chávez’s announcement of the termination of cooperation with the DEA, an agency he accused of being a façade for "intelligence work against the government" and a collaborator in drug trafficking, in an effort to turn the table on the U.S.

Now we can expect a counterpunch from the U.S., which has been handed concrete facts to work with, not just words and ideology. Expectations are that Venezuela will not be among those “certified” by the U.S. government as a country that cooperates in the war on drugs, when the list is published on September 15. This could be a harsh blow for President Chávez’s expansionist plans. It is not at all the same for other countries and governments to show their sympathies and liking for a revolutionary as for a friend of narcoterrorism.

In the meantime, Venezuela will continue its onward rush to become a bridge for drug trafficking, as a first step towards becoming a no-man’s land where drug traffickers will do as they please.

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