Venezuela's new minister of Interior and Justice touted the country's drug interdiction bona fides just weeks after the US government announced he had been indicted on drug trafficking charges.
Minister Néstor Luis Reverol said Venezuela was responsible for 4 percent of all drug seizures worldwide between 2008 and 2010, when he served as the country's top anti-drug official, reported Panorama. He added that Venezuela seized more drugs than any other country during that period.
Reverol also said that the acquisition of special planes to intercept drug flights has enabled Venezuela to gain control over its air space and effectively end the illicit drug trade in the country.
"We are a country free of drug trafficking," Panorama quoted Reverol as saying.
In early August, the US government unsealed an indictment against Reverol and one other Venezuelan official accusing them of protecting drug traffickers in exchange for bribes. The next day, President Nicolás Maduro promoted Reverol to Interior minister. Both Maduro and Reverol pointed to the country's supposed success in combating drug trafficking as evidence that the US allegations were false.
"How am I going to be a drug trafficker if I have spent 30 years fighting drug trafficking and searching for capos?" Reverol said earlier this year in response to previous reports of a US indictment.
InSight Crime Analysis
The idea that Venezuela has eradicated drug trafficking flies in the face facts and reason. To be sure, the lack of official crime statistics, and transparency in general, has made it difficult for observers to assess the current security situation in Venezuela. But Reverol's claim -- which has also been peddled by other high-level Venezuelan officials recently -- smacks of a political agenda overshadowing honest appraisal of the facts.
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Contrary to the Interior minister's remarks, there is abundant evidence that drug traffickers with airplanes continue to use Venezuela as a launching pad for cocaine shipments to other parts of Latin America and Europe. In addition, cells of corrupt military officials known collectively as the "Cartel of the Suns" are heavily involved in the country's illicit drug trade. The US State Department has called Venezuela one of the top drug trafficking routes in the region because of its "porous western border with Colombia, weak judicial system, sporadic international counternarcotics cooperation, and permissive and corrupt environment."
Reverol's unrealistic discourse is representative of Venezuela's growing isolation from the international community. An increasing number of high-level officials accused of drug trafficking by the US government have either remained in positions of power or have even been promoted. And the head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, recently said the sentencing of political opposition leader Leopoldo López marked the end of democracy in Venezuela.