The Guardian 30 July, 2008
Bush’s plan against Venezuela
Venezuela does not only represent a political and a sovereignty problem to the United States of America, but additionally Venezuela owns the energy resources from which the American economy of tomorrow depends. For this reason, after trying all possible and thinkable coups d’état, and having failed each time, Washington tries indirect military action using Colombia. With this perspective the Bush’s administration begins to intoxicate media information to justify a conflict.
The hostility of Bush’s administration toward the Venezuelan government has marked a new milestone, with the "Anti-Drug Czar", John P Walters’ declarations on January 19, 2008. In fact, during a visit to Colombia, he accused President Hugo Chávez of "having turned into a great facilitator of the cocaine traffic towards Europe and other parts of the hemisphere".
This new attack against the most popular Latin American leader, far from being gratuitous, is part of the satanisation strategy of the Bolivarian administration orchestrated by the White House to justify a more radical action against Venezuela. Now, Washington and Bogotá try to relate Caracas with the international narco-traffic in order to stain President Chávez’ image.
Attacks to Venezuela
Some days later, on January 24, 2008, the Colombian Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos stated that at least three of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leaders live in Venezuela, and did not give any more details. At the same time, the Colombian Vice-President, Francisco Santos, accused the Maracaibo Mayor, Gian Carlo Di Martino, of supplying weapons to the Colombian guerrilla and specifically to the National Liberation Army (ELN), based on a video that was later revealed as false.
Far from stepping back from his false claim, he even confirmed that the Venezuelan mayor would be captured and taken to Colombia.
Di Martino on his side denounced "A montage revealing the US … and the Colombian government plan to unchain a destabilising process at the Venezuelan borders". The Colombian intelligence services along with the US Defence Department declarations also accused Venezuela of supplying ammunitions to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and ELN. The Venezuelan opposition followed the Washington and Bogotá line. Mildred Camero, formerly of the National Anti-Drugs Agency (ONA), stated that the supposed drug dealers were "protected by Venezuelan authorities and operate with total freedom".
The common point of all these accusations is the absolute lack of proof or concrete facts supporting the diverse statements. President Chávez denounced the Colombian and American manoeuvres: "I alert the world about the following: the American empire is creating the conditions to generate an armed conflict between Colombia and Venezuela", he underlined. "In less than a week the chief of the empire armed forces came to Colombia, [followed by] the Anti-Drug Czar, to say that I am ‘narcotraffic’s great facilitator", he added, criticising at the same time the Colombian Defence Minister statements.
The President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, also warned the international community about the danger of the current campaign to relate Venezuela to narco-traffic. "The United States of America is using the Colombian, a country currently occupied by the US, to break this space which is being opened in Latin America," he stated. "We hope that the Colombian people may be able to restrain their government and do not commit the mistake of instigating a confrontation".
Álvaro Uribe and the Drug Enforcement Agency
Actually, the only top leader who is implicated in drug dealing is the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, as it is demonstrated by a source free of any suspicion: an intelligence report from the Defence Department of the United States of America, issued in September 1991 which details the relationships of Uribe with the Medellín cartel and the paramilitaries. According to this confidential document, which gives a list of 104 "criminals, murderers, drug dealers and suspicious lawyers", among which is "Alvaro Uribe, a Colombian politician and senator who cooperate with the Medellín cartel". The report adds that "Uribe was related to a business involved in narcotraffic activities in the USA, has worked for the Medellín cartel and is personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria".
A memo issued by the US Department of Justice attorney, Thomas M Kent, also reveals that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), part of the Department of Justice, has regularly cooperated with the Colombian drug dealers and paramilitaries, and that its officers are "corrupt agents of the war against drugs".
This document is an inexorable accusation against the DEA and confirms, among other things, that numerous officials are on the Colombian drug-traffickers’ payrolls, complicit in the murders of informants, and directly involved in death squad operations, including money laundering. The memo adds that the corrupt agents have the protection of the highest governmental levels.
Kent’s memo of December 19, 2004, is based on the declarations of DEA agents in Florida, removed from service after denouncing corruption cases. According to the American attorney, said agents have faced "enormous risks to their careers and families safety" upon revealing "the names of those directly involved in criminal activity in Bogotá and the United States of America".
According to Kent, one DEA agent was involved in a criminal activity related to the death squads of the paramilitary group known as the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC in its Spanish initials), responsible for murdering thousands of Colombians. The memo exposes "his complicity in money laundering for AUC".
Far from being taken to face justice, this agent was promoted and "now is in charge of numerous narcotics and money laundering investigations". The attorney states that the Department of Justice officers filed the compromising case. "In June 2004, the Office of Professional Responsibility, OPR, (branch of DEA) and DEA asked the agent in charge of the case to submit all the information. One week later, the money laundering investigation was shut down".
Kent’s memo gives also details about three cases implicating DEA agents in Colombia. Said officers took part in a conspiracy to kill informants who confessed. "They gave amazing revelations about DEA agents in Bogotá. They stated that the agents helped them with their drug-traffic activities. Specifically they stated that the agents provided them with information about the investigations and other activities in Colombia", the attorney wrote. Later the Bogotá agents had a meeting with the informant author of the confession, "After the meeting, he was murdered", the memo states. "Other informants, who worked with the DEA group in Florida, also were killed. Each murder was preceded by an identification request from a DEA agent".
The DEA agents in Bogotá also hinted that several informants travelled to the United States to testify. While they were busy with their travel arrangements, the Bogotá agents proceeded with their detention. The memo emphasises that "the informants were imprisoned during nine months while many accusations were arising. Once it was demonstrated that the Bogotá agents were lying, the informants were released. One of them was kidnapped and murdered in Bogotá, where he was hiding".
On the other hand, the DEA agents in Colombia impeded one informant from meeting with agents who came from Florida to follow up on an investigation. "A Bogotá agent travelled to Washington and claimed this time that the informant was a paedophile. The investigation was halted. The agent was required to prove his information, but he could not provide any evidence".
Washington and Bogotá dubious legitimacy
Attorney Kent’s revelations are overwhelming for Colombia as well as for the United States, and show their dubious legitimacy. In relation to Uribe, the Department of Defence report is implacable against him and shows his involvement in international organized crime and narcotraffic.
Uribe is not the only official involved in narco-traffic in Colombia. A retired Colombian army general, Pauselino Latorre, former chief of the intelligence services, as well as his nephew Leonardo Latorre, previous treasurer of the prosecutor’s office anti-drugs unit, were arrested in January this year for money laundering of US$1 million, and association with the drug mafias. They had created a system to send cocaine (ten tonnes monthly) not only to the United States but also to Europe and Africa.
A different reality
It is important to remember some essential elements about the narco-traffic problem and the campaign to to discredit Venezuela launched by Washington and Bogotá. In fact, the major producer and most important consumer of cocaine in the world is not Venezuela, but Colombia and that the US is the biggest consumer of drugs on the planet and has never taken action against the financial institutions involved in laundering money from narco-traffic.
Bush’s administration tries to convince the world that Venezuela is turning into the world centre of narco-traffic. For three consecutive years the State Department placed Venezuela on the list of the countries that have failed in their fight against drug dealing. However, the 2007 world report of the United Nations on drugs, contradicts these affirmations, saying:
"Frequently it is reported that the shipments with destination to Spain pass by Venezuela, Brazil and certain number of other countries, including Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Argentina, and in a new trend, Mexico. Nevertheless, the main tendency in the last two or three years has been to send cocaine to Western Africa, generally to waters located in the coast lines of Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and the Canary Islands, as well as to different countries in the Guinea Gulf, such as Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Nigeria and more to the West to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to later be delivered in Europe".
On the other hand, Venezuela is acknowledged by its active struggle against narco-traffic. Since cooperation with DEA stopped in 2005, the Bolivarian authorities’ records moved from 43.25 tonnes seized in 2004 to 77.52 tonnes in 2005.
In Venezuela the DEA was responsible for the conspiracy and espionage activities in favour of the coup d’état. The DEA also thwarted the Venezuelan legislation several times, arresting several individuals. Caracas had denounced "a flagrant violation of the national sovereignty and the nation safety and defence jeopardy".
Finally, accusing the Venezuelan authorities of laxity or immobility in the fight against narco-traffic is difficult. In fact, according to the National Anti-Drugs Agency, in 2007 57 tonnes of drugs and 53 aircraft were seized on the sovereign territory. Thirteen laboratories producing cocaine were destroyed near the Colombian border as well as 60 clandestine landing strips.
Additionally, another 126 strips are being dismantled. More than 178 tonnes of chemical substances were seized, also 23 properties, 25 boats, 18 aeroplanes, 53 farms and 106 vehicles used in this criminal activity. Venezuela extradited three individuals to Colombia in March and April 2007 as well, responding favourably to a petition from that country’s Administrative Department of Security (DAS). One American citizen was also deported after a petition from Washington.
Venezuela has invested US$480 million (AU$504 million) in the installation of radars to control national air space and especially the borders with Colombia. More than 380 officers of the State Security Services devote their time to tracking and investigating illegal trafficking and to analyse satellite images to detect illegal plantations. In December 2007, at least 14 inspection flights were performed along the border area.
International institutions, such as the United Nations and the Organisation of American States, praised Venezuelan efforts in the struggle against narco-traffic, particularly in relation to the use of the Inter-American System of Uniform Data on Consumption of Drugs (SIDUC), the application of prevention programs, the carrying out of national researches, the creation of a national record of chemical substances that require control, the promulgation of the laws against organised crime, the systematic eradication of drug plantations and the ratification of several international agreements to fight drug trafficking.
In addition, the 2007 report of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) acknowledges the efforts of Venezuela. Caracas also signed 50 bilateral agreements on the struggle against narco-traffic with 37 countries. The National Anti-Drugs Agency received decorations for its efficacy from most of the region countries and from nations such as Spain, the United Kingdom or the Netherlands.
The Bolivarian government has also worked out a national strategy to fight against narcotraffic by building three airports in Maracaibo, Margarita and La Guaira which will the only places for private aircraft to enter and leave, allowing in this way a better control of air traffic. An identification system (IFF) has been created to allow the control of the aircraft that illegally enter the country’s air space. Also, a national anti-drugs net has been created. Finally, Caracas has launched an innovative five-year plan (2008-2013) to improve the struggle against organised crime with a more adequate control of the sea and air ways.
It is also important to remember that the United States, which claims to be carrying out a world-wide war against narco-trafficking and which accuses Venezuela for its lack of cooperation in this field, hindered the Bolivarian government’s purchase of Spanish aircrafts — indispensable for the border surveillance — because they contained US parts. Washington also prohibited, for the same reason, Brazil from selling 24 Tucanos planes to Caracas, which were going to be used in the fight against narco-traffic. Finally, Bush’s administration decided to remove two surveillance radars that were in Venezuela territory.
Washington’s double morality
The White House does not have any moral authority to stigmatise Venezuela in the anti-drugs matters. Washington’s credibility falls short of expectations and therefore the calls from the State Department to resume dialogue about this matter, can not be taken seriously.
Additionally, Caracas has never been ambiguous in relation to this matter — on the contrary, has been very clear: "The narco-traffic is a criminal activity with immoral and tragic consequences. It contributes millions of dollars to the drug cartels, but destroys physically and morally millions of human beings on earth. The struggle against narco-traffic is an ethical obligation".
President Hugo Chávez restated his warning in the case of a Colombian offensive against Venezuela. The intelligence services of the region confirmed his suspicions. The President announced that the armed forces are on alert because "it is possible that Colombia may take military action against Venezuela, but would repent it for hundred years.
"I accuse the Colombian government of conspiring and acting as a puppet of American imperialism, and of planning a military instigation against Venezuela".
*Carolus Wimmer is member of the Politbureau of the Communist Party of Venezuela and Vice-President of the Latin American Parliament.