The U.S. drug czar appealed to Venezuela's government Friday to take action against the flourishing flow of cocaine being smuggled through the country.
White House drug czar John Walters told The Associated Press that Venezuela has shown no willingness to cooperate with U.S. officials.
“Cooperation's gotten worse and the problem's gotten bigger,” Walters told the AP in a phone interview.
The flow of Colombian cocaine through Venezuela has quadrupled since 2004, reaching an estimated 282 tons last year, he said.
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“The flow is increasing as dramatically as it is because it is operating in a condition of impunity,” Walters said. “The failure of the Venezuelan government to go after this is a failure to be serious.”
Venezuelan officials argue they are taking drug trafficking seriously and point to large seizures in recent years. President Hugo Chavez and his foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, have suggested they would be willing to work with the U.S. against drugs on terms of mutual respect.
But Walters said his attempt to restart cooperation has been stymied as Venezuelan officials have yet to agree to his request for a meeting, and as a visa request for him and other American officials has been held up for more than a week.
“Frankly, this has gotten to the point where they're playing games,” Walters said. “Usually drugs is beyond a lot of other political differences. We have a cooperative relationship with Cuba.”
But in Venezuela's case, he said, “there just has been no willingness to establish that cooperation or re-establish a working relationship.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Venezuelan government. Its top anti-drug official, Nestor Reverol, did not immediately return a call to an aide seeking comment.