By James Suggett
MERIDA — During a two-day visit to Caracas by the vice-minister of foreign affairs of the United Kingdom, Chris Bryant, Venezuela and the U.K. strengthened their mutual commitment to combat drug trafficking and prevent drug consumption. Bryant also recognized Venezuela's increased efforts to put a halt to the illegal drug trade.
The two countries agreed to exchange intelligence and work together to capture drug traffickers, intercept drug shipments headed toward Europe, and combat the importation of synthetic drugs coming from Europe, according to Venezuela's Ministry of Information and Communication.
In a press conference, Bryant commended the Venezuelan government for tightening controls in ports and airports, promoting international cooperation for the interception of drug shipments, dismantling drug laboratories, increasing drug interdictions, and detecting illegal flights headed toward Europe and West Africa.
"The problem of drug trafficking cannot be approached in isolation. On one side, we have the consumers in Europe, the demand, which is an enormous part of the problem. On the other, the greatest producers of cocaine are in Latin America: Colombia, Peru, and some in Bolivia, that is the supply" said Bryant.
"Venezuela is not a producer country, but its territory is used by drug traffickers to bring a large part of this cocaine to Europe. That is why our countries should join our efforts; it is an international problem," the vice minister continued.
According to the director of Venezuela's National Anti-Drug Office, Nestor Reverol, who signed the agreement with the U.K., Venezuela has now signed such cooperation accords with forty countries, including, most recently, Ecuador, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Guinea Bissau.
In addition, Venezuela has arrested nearly 5,000 drug traffickers and seized more than 25,000 kilos of marijuana so far this year, surpassing the total amount of marijuana that was seized last year, according to Reverol.
Further, Reverol denied the repeated allegations by the United States government that Venezuela is uncooperative in the fight against illegal drug trafficking. He affirmed that Venezuela is willing to cooperate, but that "three fundamental things must always be respected: What the signed document says, national sovereignty, and the principle of self-determination for peoples."
The Venezuelan government and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) collaborated on anti-drug efforts until 2005, when Venezuela cut ties on the suspicion that the DEA was spying.
October 9, 2009 — Return to cover.