The Associated Press
September 3, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan authorities incinerated more than 3 tons of drugs on Wednesday, but the U.S. drug czar pointed to a sharp decline in cocaine seizures as proof the country needs to do much more.
White House drug czar John Walters noted that while the cocaine flow through Venezuela has soared according to U.S. estimates, the country seized 45 percent less cocaine last year than it did in 2005.
"That's not doing a better job. There are a lot more fish in the barrel, and they're catching less of them," Walters told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
The seizure figures, displayed on the Web site of Venezuela's National Anti-drug Office, show cocaine seizures declined from 63 tons (58 metric tons) in 2005 to 35 tons (32 metric tons) in 2007. Less than 23 tons (21 metric tons) have been seized so far this year.
Top Venezuelan counter-drug official Nestor Reverol insisted his agency has made "important advances," and authorities incinerated more than 3 tons of drugs Wednesday at various spots across the country.
He questioned U.S. estimates of a four-fold rise in the flow of Colombian cocaine through Venezuela, accusing Washington of politicizing the issue.
Walters said, however, that drug money is undoubtedly spawning corruption and "what's coming is mafias taking over at least sections of the country if not whole institutions of government."
"They need to act," Walters said.