August 31, 2008
Venezuela on Sunday rejected U.S. requests to resume cooperation in the war on drugs, saying it has made progress despite an alleged fourfold-gain in the amount of Colombian cocaine now passing through its territory.
In the latest barb-trading over the issue, Venezuela dismissed U.S. attempts to renew talks on drugs as "useless and inopportune," saying U.S. officials should focus on slashing demand for drugs at home rather than blaming setbacks on other nations' supposed lack of cooperation.
"The anti-drug fight in Venezuela has shown significant progress during recent years, especially since the government ended official cooperation programs with the DEA," Venezuela's foreign ministry said in a statement.
President Hugo Chavez suspended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in August 2005, accusing its agents of espionage.
Since then, Venezuela has refused to help U.S. officials combat drug trafficking, White House drug czar John Walters said.
U.S. law enforcement has detected a wave of flights that depart Venezuela and drop large loads of cocaine off the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, while other multi-ton loads are moved by boat and air to west Africa — a way station for shipments to Europe, Walters said.
He said the flow of Colombian cocaine through Venezuela has quadrupled since 2004, reaching an estimated 282 tons (256 metric tons) last year.
On Sunday, Chavez responded angrily to Walter's comments, calling him "stupid" for suggesting that drug smuggling through Venezuela has increased.
Chavez also took issue with recent statements made by U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy, saying the diplomat is risking possible expulsion from Venezuela and would soon be "packing his bags" if he's not careful.
Duddy told reporters on Saturday that deteriorating diplomatic relations between Caracas and Washington are giving drug smugglers the upper hand.