Saturday, 19 July 2008

Venezuela, drugs, you and us

or what does Guinea-Bissau have to do with Venezuela?

Let's see...This is the Orinoco Delta, in Venezuela, a place of difficult access, but for some boats and planes.

And this is Guinea-Bissau:

Anti-narcotics in Guinea-Bissau caught three Venezuelans in an executive jet who were transporting cocaine to West Africa. A few weeks ago the United Kingdom announce Venezuelan citizens will probably lose their visa-free entry if Venezuela did not improve substantially in "security issues".

Last year The Economist reported about the increasing murder rates in the Caribbean. Although the murder rate in most Latin America has remained rather constant and in some countries like Colombia it has decreased meaningfully, some nations have seen a drastic raise in violent crime. Those countries are mostly in the Caribbean and they are "led" by Venezuela. Venezuela has surpassed Colombia in the murder rate per 100000. As I have reported previously in this and in my Spanish blog, all 8 minister of Justice Chávez has had since 1999 have lied through their teeth: they have said crime is about to decrease, they have tried to show crime has decreased by comparing two isolated weeks, two months at most, by ignoring crime does not behave as a linear function, by simply refusing to talk to journalists, to get into an open debate with opposition politicians or even Amnesty International, by redefining to the impossible what a murder is.

In reality Venezuela's murder rate may be much worse than that of El Salvador, the current official holder of the sad first place of "countries with a high murder rate". Several countries in the Caribbean are also having big problems: Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, even usually quiet Guyana. The problem goes around drugs and specially cocaine.

As The Economist reported back then, the drug dealers are trying to look for new routes. Colombia is still the main producer. Venezuela was for a long time a transport route, but its importance has increased more and more. Apparently, as the British, but also the Spaniards have started to realise, a lot of the drug is being transported through Venezuela to West Africa for its shipment to Europe. The drug dealers are apparently getting a lot of help from some important people in Venezuela. Many agents working in drug control say the Venezuelan military are helping the drug dealers: they protect the cargo, they help in the logistics, they let them use certain places like the Delta as a transfer point where drug is loaded into planes or boats doing the big jump across the Ocean.

Some weeks ago, Chávez, in one of his U-turns after the Reyes laptops were discovered, declared he was interested in cooperating with the US Americans in the fight against drug trafficking. He said this after he had broken all contacts with the DEA.

What is happening now?

  • Is Chávez just realising his people are too linked to the drug trafficking?
  • Did he know it and he is just realising the others know it now?
  • Is his talk about cooperation just a way of gaining time and he will continue to give free reign to his people?
  • What will future governments in Venezuela do with the drug problem? For a long time Venezuelans thought we were just a transit land, consumption was located in the North, but in reality consumption in Venezuela has skyrocketed and a lot of people there are getting addicted. How are we going to approach this problem?
  • Will future governments take just the opposite approach Chavismo had so far and instead of saying "it is all your problem" say just "we have to solve it all"?

So, basically: how are we going to get out of this problem once Chávez is no longer in power?
I believe we will need a very consistent policy, one coordinated with the US, the EU, the rest of the countries around Venezuela, one where transparency becomes key, where Venezuelan forces cooperate fully with those of the other countries, where the other countries also assume their responsibility of reducing drug consumption in their own towns, where we develop real programmes to combat drug addiction in Venezuela's slums, where Venezuela offers better ways of earning money than becoming a criminal. But all these things I have mentioned are not a plan, they are just wishes. We really need a detailed plan. When are our politicians going to start thinking about the details of it?

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