Venezuela, Colombia to boost anti-drug cooperation

Venezuela, Colombia to boost anti-drug cooperation
# 27 January 2011 01:15 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Venezuela’s top security official and Colombia’s defense minister signed an accord Wednesday to strengthen cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking along the extensive border separating the South American neighbors, APA reports quoting “Associated Press”.
Venezuelan Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami and Colombian Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera said they would take new action that would help crack down on drug smugglers who cross over the 1,378-mile (2,219-kilometer) border that runs through Andean mountains and dense, tropical jungle.
Under the agreement, the two countries agreed to share intelligence that will enable them to coordinate anti-drug raids on both sides of the border; increase control over chemicals used to produce cocaine; launch joint investigations of money laundering by drug traffickers; and create a commission to oversee anti-drug cooperation.
"This agreement reaffirms the commitment and concern of our presidents, governments and peoples to stop illegal-drug kingpins," El Aissami said. "This is a commitment allowing us to increase the levels of cooperation and understand that this is a worldwide problem that requires a joint effort."
Rivera echoed El Aissami’s statements.
"Only coordinated, joint work between both countries and the authorities of both countries is going to allow us to end the nightmare of illegal drug trafficking and all the activities associated with this criminal chain and the terrible consequences they have for our countries," Rivera said.
Due to its proximity to cocaine-producing gangs in Colombia, Venezuela has become an important hub for drug smuggling.
Officials in Washington have strongly criticized Venezuela’s anti-drug efforts, saying the government of President Hugo Chavez has not done enough to stem the flow of cocaine. Chavez says he is doing everything possible to fight trafficking, and he often blames the drug problem on high demand for cocaine among U.S. residents.
Chavez says Venezuela is seizing more drugs than ever before, and he says that authorities don’t need help from the United States to fight drug smuggling. Anti-narcotics operations have improved since cooperation ended with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2005, he says.
Last month, Venezuela’s National Anti-Drug Office announced that Venezuelan soldiers and police seized more than 27 tons (25 metric tons) of cocaine in 2010, slightly lower than the 31 tons (28 metric tons) of cocaine seized in 2009.
Ties between Venezuela and Colombia have improved since Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos took office Aug. 7 and vowed to leave behind recent bitter disputes that marred diplomatic relations during the administration of his predecessor, President Alvaro Uribe.
Chavez feuded for years with Uribe and severed diplomatic ties last year in response to allegations that Venezuela’s government has provided safe haven to leftist Colombian rebels, which finance their subversive activities through the drug trade. Chavez has denied the allegations.