The Associated Press
July 17, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- The United States and Venezuela may renew anti-drug cooperation that has been stalled for three years amid deteriorating relations, top officials from both nations said Thursday.
Venezuela's foreign minister said the country is willing to work with Washington against drug trafficking as long as U.S. officials express the mutual respect necessary for bilateral relations.
"We will advance when that is understood by the U.S. government," Nicolas Maduro told reporters. "Meanwhile, conversations will continue."
The Bush administration is eager to resume those joint counter-narcotics efforts, said Thomas Shannon, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America.
"We would like to explore this diplomatic opening," Shannon said in Washington. "Cooperation in the counter-drug fight would be familiar ground for both governments and would be well-received in the region."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez suspended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2005, accusing its agents of spying on his government.
The U.S. has accused Venezuela of allowing a rising flow of cocaine to pass through its territory en route to the U.S. and Europe, blaming corruption and a weak judicial system.
Venezuelan officials counter that illegal drug seizures are at a record as the government boosts enforcement along its 1,370-mile (2,200-kilometer) border with Colombia, and steps up efforts to weed corrupt officials from security forces.