[Venezuelanalysis.com's Kiraz Janicke reports on statements made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday in which he compared his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe to a Mafia boss and accused him of being a "sad pawn of US imperialism". Chavez's statements followed what he called a "Colombian media offensive" and the recent visit of top US authorities to Colombia.]
Chavez Attacks Latest U.S. “Media Offensive” Against Venezuela
January 21st 2008, by Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com
Caracas, January 21, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez compared his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe to a Mafia boss and accused him of being a "sad pawn of US imperialism," in response to what he called a "Colombian media offensive" and the recent visit of top US authorities to Colombia, such as Pentagon Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen and head of the US's Office of National Drug Control Policy, John Walters. Walters had accused Chavez of "making Venezuela a haven" for drug smuggling.
Relations between Venezuela and Colombia deteriorated in November last year after Uribe abruptly terminated Chavez's mediating role in negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the release of 45 hostages. Despite Chavez's success in securing the release of two hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo on January 10, tensions heightened again last week after Chavez said the FARC should be removed from the list of terrorist organizations of Colombia, the U.S., and the EU., upon which Colombia accused Chavez of "interference."
While he criticized Venezuela, Walters praised Colombia - the world's number one cocaine exporter, producing 60% of all cocaine - for its efforts to combat drug trafficking.
Walters' comments are part of an international campaign "against Venezuela, against the revolution, against the Venezuelan people," Chavez said during his weekly Sunday TV program Alo Presidente.
"They attack me, they accuse me of being a narco-trafficker and they are repeating this to the whole world, but such is life, one that goes around fighting for peace they accuse of being a threat," he added.
In reality, Chavez argued, it is President Uribe who is linked with drug trafficking paramilitary groups, "He has strong connections with paramilitaries, only the gringos protect him because he is their pawn."
Thirty-five Colombian legislators, including many of Uribe's political supporters and family members are currently under investigation by the Colombian Supreme Court for links to the paramilitaries and in 1991 Uribe himself appeared on the US State Department's list of the top 100 drug traffickers.
US criticism of Venezuelan drug interdiction efforts have increased ever since Venezuela suspended cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2005, saying DEA operatives were carrying out illegal political espionage.
However, Venezuela has repeatedly ratified its determination to combat drug trafficking and in 2007 intercepted and decommissioned 57.5 tons of drugs and destroyed 13 illegal cocaine laboratories near the border region with Colombia.
Vice President Ramón Carrizalez also announced a plan on Saturday to increase National Guard operations in collaboration with Justice and Interior Minister Rodríguez Chacín and the governors of Merida, Apure, Tachira, Zulia and Barinas to combat crime and insecurity along the border region with Colombia, a problem which he said is a direct result of the military operations of Plan Colombia in the neighboring country.
"We are working...to combat insecurity in the frontier that translates into hired assassinations, smuggling, the presence of paramilitaries, homicides...an effect of the implementation of Plan Colombia."
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