Cocaine’s loophole: Venezuela

Dan Grech Mar 29, 2007


LISA NAPOLI: The U.S. has spent $4 billion over the past seven years fighting the drug trade in Colombia. That’s made it nearly impossible to smuggle drugs directly out of Colombia’s airports. But now Colombian cocaine has found a new jumping off point: the international airport in neighboring Venezuela. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace’s Dan Grech reports.

DAN GRECH: For 17 years, the U.S. and Venezuela cooperated in fighting drugs. But the countries have become political rivals.

In 2005, Venezuela stopped cooperating with U.S. drug enforcement.

Peter DeShazo is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

PETER DESHAZO: Venezuela’s long been a major trans-shipment point for drugs coming out of Colombia.

But he says the problem’s gotten worse. As much as half of all Colombian cocaine — 250 tons a year — is now said to pass through Venezuela. That’s five times the 2001 figure.

DESHAZO: This certainly weakens the effectiveness of U.S. and Colombian efforts to stem drug trafficking in Colombia and in the region in general.

Bush has budgeted $367 million to fight drugs in Colombia, but Congress may object to spending that money if cocaine slips so easily into Venezuela.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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