24 April, 2006

The Venezuelan Connection

According to some sources, Venezuela is now a conduit for perhaps half of Colombia's exported cocaine, as well as marijuana and heroin. Of course, Much of this product of the coca plant is destined for European and North American markets and some of it may have been traded for weapons at the highly-porous Colombo-Venezuelan border. As we already know, most of the coca from which comes cocaine is grown by small-time Colombian farmers under pressure from the FARC and other guerilla groups. At the same time, the Chavez administration has been criticized on several occasions for unofficially backing the FARC, perhaps even turning a blind-eye to their presence on the Venezuelan side of the border.

Now, what concerns me here is the implications this may have for the coming elections. The Chavez administration has prided itself on its toughness on drugs in the country. Just recently, el Supremo himself claimed that seizures had increased 80-something percent from last year. At the same time, anti-drug commercials abound on Venezuelan television (the "Alianza para una Venezuela sin Drogas" is a big name in the media-war on drugs). Opposition candidates could very easily, and successfully, add this to the list of civic deterioration --including an increase in violent crime, the deterioration of public hospitals, and the worsening of public education, as well as the stark deficit in public housing construction, which I pointed out here-- that has come to plague the Chavez administration. In the end, I can only hope that this growing trend in drug-trafficking via Venezuela may be used to expose not only the loss of power of the nation's policing bodies but, perhaps, the current administration's hipocrisy in condeming drugs while, at the same time, doing very little to stem its flow through the country's highways, seaports and airports.

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