HomeNewsBrief'Murder of Venezuelan Diplomat in Kenya Linked to Drug Trafficking'
BRIEF

'Murder of Venezuelan Diplomat in Kenya Linked to Drug Trafficking'

VENEZUELA / 8 AUG 2012 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

Anonymous Kenyan officials claimed that the recent murder of Venezuela's interim ambassador to the country is linked to an international drug trafficking scheme involving top Venezuelan diplomats.

On August 6, Kenyan authorities charged senior Venezuelan diplomat Dwight Sagaray (pictured) with the murder of interim Venezuelan ambassador Olga Fonseca Gimenez. Fonseca’s body was found in her official residence in Nairobi on July 27, and a Kenyan investigator told Reuters that the motive behind the killing was “jostling for positions in the embassy.” Fonseca had been at the post for less than two weeks before her death, having taken over from the previous ambassador, who left amid accusations of sexual harassment. Sagaray denies the charges against him.

However, the Kenyan Star reports that police in the African nation believe Fonseca’s death was linked to a drug trafficking ring run by Venezuelan diplomats. According to the Star, Venezuelan embassy officials had been using diplomatic pouches -- which are exempt from customs inspection under international law -- to smuggle drugs into Kenya, where they were sold to local traffickers.

Fonseca allegedly put a stop to this upon taking office, a decision which “reportedly caused friction in the embassy and may have contributed to her murder.” The paper claims that its police sources asked to remain anonymous for fear of sparking a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite repeated denials by the Venezuelan government, the country has earned a reputation as a haven for drug traffickers in recent years. Former judicial and security officials have backed this allegation, claiming that high-ranking officers in the Venezuelan military directly participate in drug trafficking.

The report of Kenya being used as a transit nation for narcotics comes just after a recent warning from US anti-drug officials that Africa is emerging as a “new frontier” in the international narcotics trade. The US announced it plans to train an elite anti-narcotics force in Kenya and Nigeria, with one already underway in Ghana.

If the Kenyan Star's allegation proves true, it could deal a major blow to the international reputation of Venezuela’s government. It would also be deeply damaging to Chavez's presidential campaign ahead of the upcoming October elections, playing directly into opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski's attempts to cast Chavez as corrupt.

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